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This book should be returned on or before ^e dateMast 

Tribal Demography 
in India 

C. B. Mamoria, M. A. 

lecturer ', Mabarana Bbupal College , Udaipur (Raj) 

With a Foreword by 
Dr. S. Chandrasekhar, M.A., Ph. D., 

Director, Indian Institute jor Population Studies, Madras. 



By the same Author : 

i. Agricultural Problems of India (Second 
Edition, 1957) 

Y. ^t%^ iTta % fe^RT 

%. Population and Family Planning in India 

(In Press) 

7. Indians Outside India 

8. Social Disorganisation in 

9. Socio-Economic 



My Revered Gurus 
Shri R. P. Gupta, M. A., 

(With whom I read during 1935-39) 

Dr. R. N. Bagchi, M. A., Ph. D., (London} 

(With whom I conducted Research during 


With profound respect and devotion 

This Monograph is humbly dedicated 

as a token of gratitude and 

memory of those happy 




For some strange reason, all the studies on Indian demo- 
graphy, have hitherto ignored the question of India's abori- 
ginal population. In fact, many do not know that we have 
in our country more than fifty million aboriginals, the des- 
cendants of some of the original settlers and earliest inhabi- 
tants of India. 

India is a melting pot in more than one sense. For cen- 
turies different races and tribes, castes and communities have 
met and mingled together and this gradual but incomplete 
process of welding has left different groups at different levels 
of cultural evolution. Today the population of India can 
be roughly divided into the great majority of "civilised" 
Indians of the plains and the minority of tribal population 
of the hills and forests constituting about 16 per cent of 
total population. 

The tribals are scattered all over India but they are 
mainly concentrated in three zones in the north-east, the 
centre and the south. They are divided into several tribal 
groups such as the Badagas, Bhils, Chenchus, Gonds, 
Khonds, Mundas, Nagas, Nayadis, Oraons, Santhals, and 
Savaras, etc. While these tribals have been our neighbours 
for centuries we know relatively little about them or their 
way of life. 

In past, down to the early nineteenth century, the Govern- 
ment of the day was so ignorant of Anthropology and Eth- 
nology that they approached the tribals from the point of the 
much needed peace in the land. All that mattered to the 
Government was whether the tribals would co-operate with 
the Government or not. Some of the tribals were even 
labelled" Criminal Tribes". The Government confined some 
millions of these people to what amounted to reservations* 
forced innumerable disabilities on them, encroached upon 
their land and other means of livelihood, widened the alrea- 
dy existing isolation between the tribals and other Indians, 
and allowed them to be exploited, unwittingly, of course, 


by the planter and the forester. Efforts to safeguard their 
culture, language and the way of life were either lukewarm 
or were lacking. It denied them education and medical 
help, disputed their tribal organisation and practically took 
away some of the things they cherished most, leaving no- 
thing to take their place, and on the whole, made them 
easy victims of exploitation by their "civilised" fellow- 
Indians and proselytizing foreign missionaries. The alien 
Government was more interested in collecting revenue and 
maintaining law and order than in rehabilitating the lives of 
these Submerged* groups. It must be said to the great 
credit of the British Government, however, that despite 
their laisse^ faire policy, they did put down the custom of 
human sacrifice among some of the tribals. 

With the advent of the political freedom, the situation 
has, however, changed for the better, but still much needs 
to be done. Today the welfare of the tribal population is the 
subject of Article 6 of our Constitution, which says, "the 
State shall promote with special care the educational and 
economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and, 
in particular, of the Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribe, 
and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of 
exploitation." There is also special provision for separate 
representation of the scheduled tribes in the Central Parlia- 
ment and State legislatures. Article 275 of the Indian Cons- 
titution provides financial help to the States for the develop- 
ment of scheduled areas and for welfare schemes for sche- 
duled tribes in the States. 

But what is the basic policy behind this governmental 
concern and welfare measure ? In the past official policy 1 
has ranged between total non-interference with the triba- 
population and forcing the tribals to adopt and adapt them s 
selves to the Indian way of life. In practical policy thi 
meant measures aimed at isolation which in turn meant no 
restriction or regulation of any kind or assimilation which 
involved bringing tribesmen down to the plains. Whatever 
the policy, the fundamental basis should be not to disturb 
the tribal way of life their customs and manners on the 
one hand, and accelerate the process of assimilation, 


integration and accentuation by persuasion on the other 
hand. Such a policy would prevent the exploitation of 
the tribals by others and at the same time provide them 
with the amenities of modern life such as drinking water, 
sanitation, public hygiene, medical aid and educational 

A policy implies an adequate knowledge of the ways of 
life of all tribal groups. A plan, if it is to be successful, 
must be predicated upon objective facts and scientific data. 
Here is the big gap in our knowledge. We know very 
little of the growth of population of different tribes, 
the economic, social and biological factors behind such 
growth or decline, their fertility, morbidity and mor- 
tality rates. We need more and reliable knowledge of their 
family life, marriage pattern, sexual behaviour, social and 
ritual structure, their levels of living and in a word, the 
total demographic and cultural milieu in which they have 
their being. It is true that we do have some able and 
pioneering studies like those of Verrier Elwin, Hutton, 
Risley, Haimendorf and others. But most of these studies 
are either anthropological excursions or ethnographic sur- 
veys. None of them go to the demographic roots. In 
fact, we do not have a single demographic study of any one 
of the tribes based on intensive field work. It is here that 
Shri Mamoria breaks new ground in this study on the 
Tribal Demography of India. This book is an able and 
scholarly survey. He has carefully assembled all the avail- 
able data, evaluated their worth and has drawn conclusions. 
This book not only brings together data not available in 
a handy form hitherto, but focusses attention on several 
obscure points. Shri Mamoria deserves to be congratu- 
lated on bringing out this monograph. 

This study is useful in another and more important 
direction. It reveals how little we know of Indian tribal 
demography. What is the birth of the Chenchus ? What 
is the infant mortality rate among the Bhils ? What 
is the expectation of life at birth of the Mundas ? What 
is the maternal mortality rate among the Nayadis ? 
What is the sex ratio among the tribals ? What is their 


survival rate ? Questions such as these can be asked with- 
out end. At present the only answer is, "We do not 
know". We need fundamental demographic research, 
based on field work among everyone of these tribes on 
the basis of census questionnaire and cohort analysis. 
Without basic and scientific data, no sound administrative 
policy can be formulated. Lord Keynes once remarked 
that there is nothing a Government hates more than to 
be well informed, for it makes the process of arriving at 
decisions much more complicated and difficult. Public admi- 
nistration can be defined as the art of reaching right deci- 
sions on insufficient evidence. We must so change this 
situation that every decision of the Government is backed 
by a vast body of objective, scientific and unimpeachable 
data. Here, in the case of our tribal population, the objec- 
tive is not mere demographic research but sound know- 
ledge on which our nation-building policies can be based. 

The tribals are our brothers and sisters and they 
should be levelled up to the highest potential possibilities. 
Further, we want to evolve a strong and united India. 
Despite the deep and fundamental unity pervading our 
cultural evolution continually for some five thousand 
years, we do not have a unified culture like the British, 
German or French. Ours is a composite type and the 
component parts stand out in bold relief, as in the United 
States of America, where each immigrant group has 
brought with it its own cultural patterns and blended them 
into melting pot of the American way of life. In our coun- 
try, the various regional, linguistic, religious and tribal 
cultural blocks are only different aspects of the one Indian 
culture. Despite the centripetal forces that are binding all 
these different cultural patterns into one strengthening 
unity, distinctive features of our provincial, regional and 
tribal cultures still stand out in bold relief. They are bound 
to continue and flourish, for India's cultural unity is bound 
to be a federal one like that of the Soviet Union. India,, 
thus presents a colourful diversity and a dull colourless 


This, of course, does not mean that the process of 
assimilation and Indianisation of the small minority centri- 
fugal cultural patterns has been completed. The lack of 
assimilation does sometimes constitute a problem and raises 
acute issues, though the fact that there is no immigration 
of new groups into India is a great help in building up of 
our nation. Leaders who have India's welfare at heart 
might well profit by American experience in this regard. 
An effort in the right direction will be an acceleration of 
inter-caste, inter-provincial, inter-religious, inter-"Indian"- 
tribal exchanges and marriages. To become a strong nation 
India's communal, linguistic and tribal groups need not 
be merged into a common mass as to resemble the colour- 
less drab which results from mixing many colours. Rather 
that these castes, linguistic groups and tribes might be 
woven into a brilliant fabric, in which none of the colours 
have been destroyed, but all preserved in their original 
hues, and so blended as to gain new lustre from the new 
associations and contrasts. Such an objective as this might 
well be the basis of our policy towards our tribal minorities.. 

Gandhinagar, S. Chandrasekhar, 

Madras, 20. M. A., Ph. D., 

1 5th August, 1957. Director, 

Indian Institute for 
Population Studies.. 


Historically Dravidian, Aryan and Buddhistic cultures 
have made distinctive contributions in the shape of charac- 
teristic institutions which, established in successive epochs 
down to prehistoric times, existed side by side thereafter, 
supplementing rather than supplanting one another, each 
type serving a specific purpose or a particular class, while all 
conduced collectively to render the entire system compre- 
hensive as well as inter-related, to suit the needs, conven- 
tions and determine the standards of times. The attainment 
of freedom by our country has propped up many problems 
touching Indian national life, which under an aUen rule 
was lop-sided. The population of India is problematical 
and still more the problem of its primitive tribes, the original 
(Swadeshi) residents, which unfortunately has so far escaped 
the attention of our scholars. 

Prof. C. B. Mamoria's monograph on the "The Tribal 
Demography in India" is the result of his sincere studies 
and sound scholarship. There are many within the country 
and abroad who require authentic information on this aspect 
of our national life. Prof. Mamoria's monograph fills 
the chasm in scholarship created by the biased accounts of 
foreign missionaries and European travellers. Now that 
India has a constitution and our Government has a genuine 
interest for the upliftment of the primitive tribes as evidenc- 
ed by the working of the First Five- Year Plan a study of 
Indian tribal population through the angle of vision rightly 
chosen by the learned scholar affords welcome release to 
those interested in this problem. A profound scholar, 
proficient in literature, keenly alive to all progressive ideas, 
Professor Mamoria's versatile and dynamic personality is 
set on a mental background calculated not merely to 
vitalise and inspire, but to visualise and compel realisation. 

It is a unique feature of the primitive tribes that no 
external influence altered their character to this day. In 
the very words of the author, "The aboriginals are the real 


<c Swadeshi" and the oldest inhabitants of India in whose 
presence every one is a foreigner". While touching all 
aspects of the problem, in Prof. Mamoria's graphic descrip- 
tion of the marriage rituals of the aboriginals, one finds 
enough material of comparison and contrasts with the 8 
types of marriages amongst the Hindus as described by 

If politics and polemics permeate to the fire-side and 
the kitchen from the rostrum of the nationalist, if the 
tempo of social life is to be refined, rustic aspirations ennobl- 
ed, if amongst the primitive tribesmen there is more of 
a saner attitude towards life, a growing readiness to strive 
to look backward and to live forward, it is the indubitable 
outcome of our population problem that this subject (Pri- 
mitive tribes) must form an important feature in the study 
of Economics, Geography, History and Sociology courses 
of our Indian Universities and Prof. Mamoria's stupendous, 
yet congested work must render great service to the cause 
of our educational set-up in the modern times. The author 
deserves to be heartily congratulated for this nice attempt. 

Da ted Udaipur : S. S. KULSHRESHTHA, 

The 20th Aug. /y. M. A. (Geog), M. A. (Econs)> 

B. Com; L. L. B., Ph. D., 



Since the achievement of Freedom and the adoption 
of the New Constitution, greater attention has begun to be 
given to the welfare of the so far neglected vast humanity 
of tribals which number over 19 millions in India. No 
doubt some valuable Reports have been issued, both by the 
Central Government and some of the State Governments 
yet the information is so vast and scattered that it is not 
within the easy reach of the average advanced students as 
well as the laymen and others interested in their welfare. 
Necessity was, therefore, felt for a brief and sufficient 
account of these people which could give a clear yet impartial 
view of their present position and future prospects. This 
monograph attempts to meet this need. 

Being conscious of my own limitations of knowledge, 
incompetency and ill-equipment to deal with this important 
topic, I have ventured upon this project only in response to 
an urge from a teacher in me, which I could not resist but 
to act upon, for which I offer my due apology to the scho- 
lars of the subject. I do not know how far I have been 
able to handle this important problem, it is for the experts 
to judge. An attempt has been made in this Monograph 
to discuss such topics as the distribution and classification 
of the tribes, their standard of living, their role in natio- 
nal economy, their dietaries, sex and marriage rituals, 
demography, housing and living conditions, education, 
economic pursuits in which they are engaged, the problems 
which confront them and how can their conditions be bet- 
tered. A chapter in the beginning is also devoted to the 
Peoples of India, over which a clear expression is generally 
not available. 

Needless to say that in preparation of this Monograph, 
I have necessarily, drawn upon copiously on the existing 
reports especially those of the Scheduled Castes and Sche- 
duled Tribes' Commissioner for India and the Adam Jati 
Sevak Sangh, and the various Census Reports as well as 
individual surveys undertaken by the experts in the field 


for which I sincerely express my heart-felt thanks. I should 
frankly confess that the writings of such eminent scholars 
as Dr. V. Elwin, Dr. B. S. Guha, Dr. G. S. Ghurye, Dr. 
J. H. Hutton, Dr. D. N. Majumdar, Prof. N. K. Bose, Late 
Shri A. V. Thakkar, and N. Bhattacharjee and a host of 
others have benefited me much. The debt to all these 
authorities can better be realised than described in words. 

I sincerely hope that this brochure will prove immense- 
ly useful to the Post-Graduate students of M. A. (Geo- 
graphy) and Sociology. It will be equally found profitable 
by the laymen, social workers and others interested in the 
welfare of these people. 

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. S. P. Chatterjee, 
M. Sc., Ph. D., (London)., D. Litt (Paris), University Pro- 
fessor and Head of the Department of Geography, Univer- 
sity of Calcutta, who so kindly responded to my humble 
request for an illuminating Foreword to this book. I am 
also highly obliged to Dr. S. Chandrasekhar, M. A., Ph. D., 
Director, Indian Institute of Population Studies, Madras for 
also providing me with a thought-provoking and learn ed 
Foreword who in spite of heavy engagements did his job so 
nicely. My friends Dr. S. S. Kulshreshta, M. A. (Econs); 
M. A. (Geog.).,LL. B.,B. Com., Ph. D.,(Geog)., Professor 
S. L. Doshi, M.A., and R. D. Saksena M. A., M. Com., also 
deserve my hearty thanks for their kind words of encour- 
agement and appreciation of this work. My publishers also 
richly deserve my sincere thanks for giving such a nice 
printing and get-up to this volume, and without whose 
hearty co-operation this Monograph would not have seen 
the light of the day. 

If this monograph could stimulate among the educated 
masses for their fellow brethren I would feel my labour 
more than amply rev/arded. 

Aug. % 1957. C. B. MAMORIA 

Particulars Pages 

Foreword v 

Prologue xi 

Preface xiii 

1 . Peoples of India 

I {vtroduction Racial Types and Elements Ris- 
ley's Classification Subsequent Classifications 
Guiffrida's Classification Haddon's Classifica- 
tion Eickstedt's Classification--Dr. Guha'sClassi- 
fication i. Negrito, 2. Proto-Australoid. 3. Mon- 
goloid. 4. Conclusion ... i 

2. Tribes in India 

I. Introduction II. Their Origin III. Distribu- 
tion of the Tribal People IV. Their Strength 
and Growth ... 19 

3. Tribes in India Their Classification 

i. Introduction 2. Classification (i) Territo- 
rial Distribution, (ii) Linguistic Distribution, (iii) 
Occupational Distribution, (iv) Physical Charac- 
teristics (v) Classification according to Culture- 
Contact Process of Transformation of Tribal 
Cultures Effects of Culture Contacts ... 33 

4. Tribes in India Their Role in National 

Introduction i. Agriculture. 2. Hunting, Fish- 
ing and Gathering. 3. Handicrafts. 4. Mining. 
5. Plantations. 6. Forestry. 7. Serf- Labour. ... 52 

5 . Tribes in India Standard of Living 

i. Dietaries 2. Health 3. Literacy 4. Housing 
Conditions 68 


*6. Tribes in India Their Civil and Social Con- 

Sex Distribution Menarche Marriage Pre- 
marital ann Extra -marital Sex Relations Selec- 
tion of Mates Forms of Marriage Divorce, 
Remarriage and Widowhood Fertility Sterility 
Control of Birth ... 86 

7. Tribes in India The State Role in Their 

Introduction Constitutional Provision Welfare 
Activities (i) Educational (ii) Economic (iii) 
Other Welfare Schemes Progress under the First 
Five Year Plan Under the Second Plan Wel- 
fare Departments ... 116 

8 . Sol ution of the Problem 

Three Solutions (i) Assimilation, (ii) Bringing 
down Tribesmen to Plains, (iii) Isolation Prac- 
tical Solution Conclusion ... 130 

Bibliography ... ... 145 

Index ... ... 149 


The population of India is made up of many 
strains which entered her territories at one time 
or another from the older Palaeolithic to the 
historical periods. Situated at the southern extre- 
mity of the Asiatic land-mass at the head of the 
Indian Ocean, flanked by high mountain ranges 
on her northern and upper parts of her western 
and eastern frontier, and with the sea separating 
the shores of the remainder, India geographically 
formed a naturally protected region into which 
man could move only through gaps in the moun- 
tain barriers. One of the results of her topogra- 
phical conditions was that the races that had come 
earlier and were in occupation of the country were 
not destroyed, but pushed south and eastwards 
and to this day they form some of the main 
components of the population. Similarly the hills 
and the forests gave shelter to a large number of 
primitive tribes who were left comparatively 
unmolested and had thus better chances of survi- 
val, living their own life. Racial types still occur- 
ring in the Indian population, therefore, contain 
many extremely primitive strains and represent 
elements from all the main divisions of mankind 
not found elsewhere to the same extent. 

Racial Types and Elements 

The absence of standard techniques of measure- 
ment and want of definite knowledge about racial 


significance of the various physical traits in man, 
explains diverse schemes of classification formu- 
lated by ethnologists. The classification of the 
Indian people (from anthropometric point of view) 
was first attempted by Sir Herbert Risley in the 
Census of India, 1901. He distinguished seven 
different ethnic types in the population of India. 
They are as follows : 

Risley's Classification 

1. The Indo- Aryan type which is found gene- 
rally in the E. Punjab, Rajasthan, and Kashmir 
and has as its characteristic members the Rajputs, 
Khattris and Jats. The structure of these people 
is mostly tall, complexion fair ; eyes dark ; hair on 
face plentiful ; head long ; nose narrow and pro- 
minent but not specially long. This race covers 
about 75 per cent of the population of India. 

2. The Dravtdian type inhabits the southern 
part of India especially Madras, Hyderabad, south- 
ern portion of M. P., and the Chota Nagpur. 
Its most characteristic representatives are the 
Paniyans of Malabar and the Santhals of the Chota 
Nagpur. They are probably the original type of 
the population of India and now modified to a 
varying extent by the admixture of the Aryans, the 
Scythians, and the Mongoloid elements. In typical 
specimen the structure is very short or below mean; 
the complexion very dark (approaching black) 
hair plentiful, with an occasional tendency to curl; 
eyes dark ; head long ; nose very broad, some- 
times depressed at the root, but not so as to make 


the face appear flat They form about 20 per cent 
of the population of India. 

3. Mongoloid type is distributed like a belt 
along the Himalayan region, Nepal and Assam. 
They are represented by the Kanets of Lahul and 
Kulu ; luepchas of Darjeeling and Sikkim. Their 
chief features are : the head is broad, complexion 
dark (with a yellowish tinge), hair on face scanty ; 
stature short or below average ; nose from fine to 
broad ; face characteristically flat, and eyelids often 

4. The Aryo-Dravidian (or Hindustan} type 
is the intermixture in varying proportions of the 
Aryans and the Dravadians. They are found in 
U. P., in parts of Rajasthan and in Bihar, and 
are represented in its upper strata by the Brahman 
and in its lower by the Harijans. The head form 
in them is generally long with a tendency to 
medium ; the complexion varies from lightish 
brown to black ; the nose ranges from medium to 
broad ; (being always broader than among the 
Indo-Aryans) ; the stature is lower than in the 
latter group and usually below the average height. 

5. The Mongolo-Dravidian (or Bengali) type 
is found in Bengal and Orissa (comprising of 
Bengal Brahmins and Bengali Kayasthas). This 
type is a blend of the Dravidians and Mongoloid 
elements, with a strain of Indo-Aryan blood in the 
higher groups. The head is broad and round, 
complexion dark ; hair on the face plenty ; nose 
usually medium with a tendency to flatness in 


some cases. The stature is medium and some- 
times short. 

6. The Scytho- Dravidian type is an admixture of 
the Scythians and the Dravidians. They generally 
inhabit the hilly tracts of M. P., Saurashtra and 
Coorg. The Scythian element is more prominent 
in higher social groups of these regions, while the 
Dravidian features are more prominent in the 
lower groups. This type has lower stature, a 
greater length of head, moderately fine nose, fair 
complexion and hair on the body quite scanty. 

7. The Turko-Iranian type is now found in 
Afghanistan and Baluchistan. 

Risley does not mention anything about the 
Negrito element in the population of India. But 
the occurrence of Negrito element in some of the 
pre- Dravidian tribes cannot be denied. Iyer 
observes wooly hair among the Kadars, and 
Pulayas of Cochin and also among the Uralis and 
Kanikars. The infiltration of the Negroid element 
must have taken place during the 8th to roth 
century A. D. Haddon has referred to an early 
dark Negroid race in Susiana and its drift to India 
is not impossible. 1 Lapique also found some 
distinct Negro faces near South Indian virgin 
forests. Hutton has shown that there is a Negrito 
substratum in the population of the eastern fron- 
tiers of India. 
Subsequent Classifications 

After Risley various anthropologists have tried 

1 A. C Haddon, The Wanderings of Peoples, 1919, 
p. 25. 


to classify the Indian people but none could give 
a, precise and scientific classification till the census 
of 193 1 when Dr. Guha revised the earlier accounts 
and made a classification of the Indian people. 

Giuffrida's Classification 

According to Giuffrida Ruggeri, the following 
ethnic classification of India can be made : 

(/) Negritos^ Veddahs (in Ceylon) and some 
southern Indian jungle tribes. 

(/'/) Pre-Dravidians or Australoid, Veddaic, 
Santhals, Oraons, Mundas and Hos, etc. 

(///) Dravidians. Telegu and Tamil-speaking 

(/'#) Tall Dolicho-cephalic elements^ Todas. 
Haddon's Classification 

According to Haddon, India is divided into 
three main geographical regions, vi%. the Himala** 
yas, the northern plains and the southern mostly 
jungle-covered plateau. In his opinion the racial 
history of India is not yet thoroughly known. The 
following racial elements are noticed in : 

(a) the Himalayas, (/) Indo- Aryan s y Kanets> 
east of the Punjab with a trace of the 
Tibetan blood. 

(/'/) Mongoloid. In Nepal and in higher moun- 

() The main racial element of the plain is 
the Indo-Afghan. The Jats and the Raj- 
puts are the representatives of this type. 


(c) For the main population of Deccan, 
Haddon uses the term Dravidian. The 
main racial elements, as observed by him, 
in Deccan are : 

(/) Negrito. A suspected strain is taken into 
account. It is represented by the Kadars. 

(//) Pre-Dravidians. The Santhals and the 

Mundas are the best examples. 
(///') Dravidians. Tamil Brahmins, the people 

of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore are 

included in this group. 
(iv) Southern Brachy-cephals. Parava (fishermen 

of the Tinnevellay Coast) and Pariyan 

(of Tamil district). 

(//) Western Brachy-cephals. are represented by 
the Nagar Brahmins, Coorgs, etc. 

The position of Todas is anomalous. 
Eickstedt's Classification 

Freiherr von Eickstedt (who led the German 
Indian Anthropological Expedition in this country 
in India during 1926-29) has classified the Indian 
people both from physical and cultural points of 
view. He has given four main divisions : 

I. Weddid or Ancient Indians. Primitive people 
of jungles. It is divided into : 

(a) Gondid. Dark brown complexion, curly 
hair, totemistic, mattock-using culture, 
matriarchal influence the Oraons, the 
Gonds, etc. 


(b) Malid. Hair is curly with black brown 
colour, originally ancient culture with 
foreign influence the Kurumbas and 
Veddahs, etc. 

II. Melanid or Black Indians. Radially mixed 
group. It is divided into 

(a) South Melanid. Black brown people in 
the most southern plains of India with 
strong foreign matriarchy the Yanadi. 

(b) Kolid. Primitive people with dark brown 
complexion of the north Deccan forest, 
strong totemistic and matriarchal influ- 
ence the Santhals, the Mundas. 

III. Indld or New Indians. Racially advanced 
people of the open region. They are divided into 

(a) Gracile Indid. Brown people with gracile 
appearance, have enforced patriarchy 
the Bengalis. 

(b) North Indid. Light brown people, possi- 
bly original patriarchal headmanship the 
Todas, the Rajputs. 

IV. Palae-Mongoloid. Palayan from Wynad. 

Dr. Guha's Classification 

According to Dr. B. C. Guha the following 
are the ethnic composition of the present-day 
Indian population : 

1. The Negrito. 

2. The Proto-Australoid 

3. The Mongoloid. 


(a) Palae-Mongoloid. 
(/') Long-headed type. 
(//) Broad-headed type. 
() Tibeto-Mongoloid. 

4. The Mediterranean 

(a) Palae-Mediterranean. 
() Mediterranean. 
(c) Oriental Type. 

5. The Western Brachy-cephals or the Alpo- 

(a) Alpinoid. 

(b) Dinaric. 

(c) Armenoid. 

6. The Nordic. 

i. The Negrito 

There have been continued disputes regarding 
the existence of Negroid strain in Indian popula- 
tion. As a mater of fact one finds true Negrito 
people in the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of 
Bengal, in New Guinea, the Philippines and also in 
the Semangs and Sakais of the Malaya Peninsula. 
On the mainland of India Lapique claims the 
existence of a Negrito strain among some of the 
forest tribes of Southern India. The wooly hair 
(which is anthropologically indicative of Negro 
blood) is to be found among the Kadars and Pula- 
yans of Travancore-Cochin, and probably also 
among the Irules and primitive tribes of the 


Wynaad. But Thurston denies the above state- 
ment. On the contrary Guiffrida Ruggeri 
thinks that among many of the south Indian 
jungle tribes Negritos who are supposed to have 
been there before the pre-Dravidians, are still to 
be found. Haddon admits that a Negroid popula- 
tion has been suspected in the Deccan ( e. g. 
among the Kardars^ but it has not been definitely 
established^ Dr. Hutton has given much attention 
to the Negrito problem. According to him Negrito 
substratum is found in the population of eastern 
frontier of India. He has found out distinctly 
frizzly hair among some of the Angami Nagas of 
Manipur and Cachar Hills.* The Negrito strain 
has also been found by Dr. Guha, among the 
Kadars and some other hill tribes, f S. Sarkar 
also found spirally twisted hair among many 
aboriginal tribes of the Rajmahal Hills. $. Dr. 
Hutton generalising the facts writes, "The earliest 
inhabitants of Indian Peninsula were probably 
Negroid in type and the Negrito rapidly dis- 
appearing though he is, still survives in the Anda- 
man Islands but he has left a few traces on the 

mainland of India (and Burma). In the Kadars 
and Uralis of the forests of the extreme south of 
India occasional individuals with frizzly hair and 
low stature and Negro-like features are very sug- 
gestive of the survival of the Negro race.'' Guif- 
frida Ruggori maintains the pre-existence of 

* J. N. Hutton, Man in India (1927), p. 
f B. S. Guha, Nature (1929), p. 123. 
$ S. Sarkar, Nature (1936), p. 37. 


Negritos between India and Persian Gulf and their 
survivals in Susiana up to historic times. 

In the Bay of Bengal, in the Malaya Peninsula, 
in parts of the Fiji Islands, in the New Guinea, in 
Southern India and southern Arabia, the presence 
of a Negritos or a suspected Negroid substratum 
induces one to suppose that at some remote pre- 
historic time a Negroid population occupied a 
very great part of the Asiatic mainland and spe- 
cially the southern part of it. Subsequently, on 
arrival of the pre-Dravidians and the Dravtdians, 
who proved themselves stronger, this primitive 
population might have been dispersed, extinct or 
absorbed. At the present time they are not found 
in any strength but only as remnants of an ancient 
race pushed into the hills of south-western India 
where they were partially absorbed by other tribes, 
but in more isolated inaccessible tracts such as 
Perrambiculum they were segregated and preserved 
their features. 

The chief characteristics of these Negritos 
are as follows. The texture of the hair is fine and 
of wooly nature, they are of pigmy stature, the 
mean being below 5 ft., small head, bulbous fore- 
head, smooth brow-ridges and feeble chins. They 
are dark in colour. Head form is variable ; it may 
be round, medium or long. Their limbs are delicate 
"with arms long in relation to the legs. The face is 
short and protruding and the nose flat and broad 
and the lips are thick and everted. 

What the Negritos contributed to the Indian 
culture is not known, but there is some ground 


for thinking that the cult of the ficus tree origi- 
nated from them. 

2. The Proto-Australoid 

Most probably the second immigrants were 
the Proto-Austroloid or the Pre-Dravidians, whose 
earliest ancestors could be traced to Palestine. 
But when and by which way they came is still 
unknown. However, this type is the predomi- 
nant element at present in almost all the tribal 
population in India, especially southern, central 
and partly northern. Their great affinities in skin, 
colour, head form, hair, face, etc., with the Ved- 
dahs of Ceylon, Australian and the Melanesians 
indicate that the four belong to the same type. 
But whether this people migrated out of India or 
are immigrants into India cannot yet be definitely 
known. Pot their affinity with the Australians 
the term Proto-Australoid is given. It is true that 
in the typical Australians the brow-ridges are 
extremely stout, the nasal root very sunken, and 
there is an abundance of bodily hair not usual in 
Indian tribes, but there is a large number, especial- 
ly among such tribes at the Chenchus^ Malayans* 
Kitrnmbas^ and the Yeruvas of South India and 
among many members of the Mnnda^ Ko/ y Santhals 
and Bhils groups where these characteristics are 
also marked. The exterior castes of Hindu society 
throughout the greater part of the country are 
also mainly constituted from this racial strain. 

The physical features of this type are : colour 
dark brown to nearly black, long head, broad and 


flat nose but depressed at the root, wavy and even 
curly hair, fleshy everted lips, and short stature. 

This race contributed a lot towards Indian 
culture. To them may perhaps be attributed a 
large share of totemistic rites, exorcism, food 
taboos and magical beliefs still obtaining in Indian 
life. The ban on commensality and inter-marriage 
which forms the basis of caste system must also 
owe its origin to them. 

3. The Mongoloid 

The Mongoloid people came into India from 
their homes in north-western China about the 
middle of the first millenium B. c. to Tibet, and 
in subsequent centuries they penetrated the plains 
of the North and East Bengal and the hills and 
the plains of Assam. Though the difficult land 
routes in the north and north-east have always 
stood in the way of large-scale invasions or migra- 
tions yet slow infiltration could not have been 
checked and the three types of the Mongoloid 
people are still found in the north-eastern India in 
Assam, Nepal and parts of eastern Kashmir. This 
type differs from the other group by the following 
special characters : (/') Flat face with prominent 
cheek bones, (/'/) almond-shaped eyes, and (///) 
scanty hair growth on body and face. 

As said above the Mongoloid group contains 
three types, vi^ : (a) The Palae-Motigoloid who 
are of more primitive nature and do not exhibit 
the characters so conspicuously. It is distinguished 
by the form of the head, long to medium with 


bulging occiput nose, medium, eye-slits oblique, 
face short and flat with prominent cheek bones, 
dark to light brown skin. This variety is known 
as the 'Long-headed type. They are predominant in 
the tribes such as the Nagas living in the sub- 
Himalayan regions, Assam and Burma Frontier. 
It extends far into Yunnan and south-eastern China. 
The Semi Naga is the true representative of this 
type. () The other one of this group, the Broad- 
headed type is found in the hill tribes of Chitta- 
gong (such as the Chakmas and the Mftghs) now 
in Pakistan. The Lepachas of Kalimpong are also 
included in this group. Their head is broad, nose 
medium., darker skin, obliquity of eye-slits and 
eye* folds are more marked. The face is short and 
flat. The character of the hair is straight but 
tending towards short waves (wavy). 

(b) The Tibeto-Mongoloid. They are broad- 
headed people with light skin, tall stature, flat and 
broad nose, very marked face with long and flattish 
character. The absence of hair on body and face 
are more marked. They are found in Sikkim and 

The Mongoloid type had exerted a great 
influence on the culture of India. The use of 
milk, tea, rice, paper, terraced cultivation, com- 
munal houses, head-hunting and betelnut culture 
may be mentioned as the contributions of the 
Mongoloid races. To one of its branches Oceanic 
we also owe the introduction of outrigger canoe 
the cocoanut and the pine apple. 


The three types Negrito, Proto-Australoid 
and the Mongoloid constitute the main tribal 
population in India. In addition to these, the 
general population contains mainly the Mediterra- 
nean, the Alpo-Dinaric and the Nordic races. Of 
these the Mediterranean group is the largest. 
There is not one uniform type of this race but 
rather a number of closely graded types charac- 
terised by the common possession of moderate 
stature, long head, slightly built body and dark 
complexion. This group probably differentiated in 
the southern steppes of northern Africa and 
the adjoining Asiatic mainland, and following 
the northward movement of the storm zone at the 
close of the Ice-age, drifted both westwards and 
eastwards. Three distinct types of this race can be 
distinguished in India : 

(a) The Palae-Mediterranean. Dark skin, long 
head with high vault and projecting occiput, 
narrow face but disharmonic in character, broad 
nose, medium stature, hair growth scanty on body 
and face, are the distinguishable characters of this 
people. This type appears to be predominant 
in the Telugu and Tamil Brahmins of South India. 

The Palae-Mediterraneans probably brought 
pottery, Megalithic culture, with its associated 
fertility rites and human sacrifice, and it seems 
likely that they were responsible for introducing 
matriarchal institutions and the high position of 
women in peninsular India. 

(b) The Mediterranean Type. This type is respon- 
sible for the development of Indus Civilization 


and were subsequently dispersed by the Aryan- 
speaking Vedic invaders who came from the 
Northern Mesopotamian regions about 2,500 B.C. 
via Iran to the Gangetic basin and to a smaller 
extent, beyond the Vindhyas. It forms today a 
dominant element in the population of northern 
India and occupies chiefly the East Punjab, 
Kashmir, Rajasthan and U. P. This type is rep- 
resented by Marhattas of M. B ; Brahmins of U.P. 
and Cochin, Bombay and Malabar. 

Dark to olive brown skin, head and face long, 
narrow nose, medium to tall stature, slender build 
of the body, the growth of hair on face and body 
much more pronounced, better developed chin, 
and large open eyes are the chief features of this 

This race developed the civilization of the 
Indus valley, and to it we owe the largest content 
of the present-day Indian religion and culture. 
Most of the common domestic animals, river 
transport, garments, the structure of houses, the 
use of brick, painted pottery and the building of 
towns are due to them. Astronomy and the Indian 
script are also their contributions. 

(c) The Oriental Race of Fischer (or the Semitic 
Type). The chief concentration of this race has 
always been in Asia Minor and Arabia, from 
where it must have come to India. This type 
resembles the Mediterranean except in nose for- 
mation, which is long and convex and this type 
is strongest in the Punjab but throughout Rajas- 
than and the westen U.P. it is common. 


(d) The Western-Brachy-Cepbals (Broad-heads) 
came into India from the west. They are designat- 
ted as Alpine (from their associations with that 
European regions) ; Dinarics (from the Dinaric 
Alps which stretch from Dalmatia to Croatia) and 
the Armenoids. 

(a The Alpanoids. Skin lighter than the Medi- 
terraneans, head broad with round occiput round 
face, with prominent narrow nose, stature medium, 
sometimes short, hair growth in abundance on 
body and face, the body thick-set and strongly 
built are the main criteria of this group. This type 
possibly moved from southern Baluchistan through 
Sind, Saurasthra, Gujarat, Maharastra into 
Kannada, Tamilnad and Ceylon and along the 
Ganges to Bengal. The intermediate Malabar and 
Andhra country remained unaffected. The people 
of this group are found in Saurashtra, (Kathts}, 
Gujarat (Banias), and Bengal (Kayasthas). The 
major racial strains of Bengal and Bombay belong 
to this group. 

(b) The Dinaric. Skin slightly darker, head 
not so broad but very short with flattened vertical 
-occiput and vault very high, forehead seems to be 
rather receding slightly, face comparatively long, 
nose long and often convex, stature tall are the 
main features of this sub -type. The presence of 
this sub-type is very marked in Bengal, Orissa 
and Coorg mixed with the Mediterraneans. 

(c) The Arntenoid. Twany white skin, short to 
medium stature, broad head, narrow and aquiline 
nose with a depressed tip and broad wings. The 


Parsees of Bombay are the true representatives of 
this group. The occurrence of this type among 
the Bengali Vaidyas and Kayasthas in not a rare 

(d} The Nordics. This race came last of all 
from the north and belonged to the Northern 
Steppe folk, moving south-westwards in a great 
racial wave along the Kassites, they swept into 
north-west India somewhere during the second 
millenium B. c. This type bears the following 
physical features ; fair skin, head long often 
medium with arched forehead and occiput 
protruding, prominent narrow nose with tall 
stature. In north India this type is noticed but 
marked by admixture with the Mediterraneans. 
The sprinkling of this element has reached the 
western side of India and well as far east in Bengal. 

This type contributed a lot to the culture of 
India. They brought horses, probably iron and 
best variety of wheat. The use of milk, alcoholic 
drinks, dicing, chariot racing, and tailored gar- 
ments were due to them. They introduced 
patriarchy in Indian social life, but their chief 
gift was the Aryan language. They have been, 
in fact, directly or indirectly responsible for 
most of the glories of Indian literature, philo- 
sophy and art. 


From what has been stated above it will be 
found that the present population of India is an 
admixture of almost all the races of the modern 
world with some variations due to climate and 


environmental influences. Though ethnic zones 
can be demarcated according to the predominance 
of the groups, it must be clearly understood that 
no rigid separation is possible as there is consi- 
derable overlapping of types. The Negrito is 
nearly extinct. The Proto-Australoids are found 
in. distant parts, almost in secluded areas in the 
h illy regions and jungles of southern, western and 
central India. The Mongoloid group were not 
intermixed with the whole population though 
scattered and stray cases may be found in the 
north-eastern regions. The Mediterraneans gra- 
dually settled in the Indus valley, the present 
desert tracts and travelled along the Ganges valley. 
These settlements and movements were the results 
of fresh incursions, fights, defeats and conquests. 
This group and the Alpine groups with a sprinkl- 
ing of Nordics settled and intermixed in vast 
northern plain. In the Ganges valley we find in 
the upper portion a dominance of the Medi- 
terraneans, while in the lower valley (in Bengal), 
the Alpo-Dinaric is decidedly dominant. While 
the Mediterranean and the Alpo-Dinaric groups 
with some proto-Australoid, settled down, 
intermixed and became dominant in the area south 
of the Vindhyas, the Nordic or the Proto-Nordic 
is scarcely found in the Deccan excepting a very 
few in the Central India region. 

I. Introduction 

The peoples of India include a very large num- 
ber of primitive tribes who subsist on hunting, 
fishing or by simple forms of agriculture. Various 
authorities have described them by different names. 
Sir Herbert Risley and Lacey, Mr. Elwin and Shri 
A. V. Thakar called them ''Aboriginals" 1 ; Sir 
Baines included them under the category of ''Hill 
Tribes" 2 ; Mr. Grigson regards them as "hill tribes 
or wilder aboriginals" while Mr. Shoobert called 
them "aborigines'' 3 . They have been regarded as 
"animists" by Mr. Tallents, Mr. Sedgwick, Mr. 
Martin 4 and Dr. Hutton calls them as "primitive 
tribes" 5 and Mr. Baines calls them "jungle people, 
forest tribes or folk" 6 . Mr. Elwin calls the Baigas, 
the "original owners of the country/' 7 The 

1 H. Risley, The Peoples of India (1904), p. 218; Lacey, 
Census of India (Bihar and Orissa), 1931, p. 288-9; V. Elwin, 
The Loss of the Nerves, p. I. ; A.V. Thakar, The Problems of 
Aborigines in India (1941). p. i. 

2 Baines, Ethnography, p. 112, 113. 

3 Shoobert, Census of India (C. P. and Berar Report), 
1931. p. 312. 

4 Tallent, Census of India (B. and O. Report), 1921. p. 
125; Sedgwick, Bombay Census Report 1921; p. 67; Martin, 
Census of India, 1921, Vol. i Pt. I p. no-iii. 

5 Hutton, Census of India> 1931, Vol. I Pt. I. p. 391. 

6 Baines, Census oflndia 9 1891, Vol. I, Pt. I. p. 158. 

7 V. Elwin, The 1$aigas, p. 519. 


eminent Indian anthropologist and sociologist, Dr. 
Ghurye calls them "Backward Hindus" 8 . Dr. Das 
and Das rename them as "submerged humanity" 9 
Article 342 of the Indian Constitution relates to a 
special provision in respect of "Scheduled Tribes/' 
which are defined as the "tribes or tribal com- 
munities or parts of or groups within tribal com- 
munities which the President may specify by 
public notification." The tribal groups are pre- 
sumed to form the oldest ethnological sector of the 
national population. The term "Adivasis" (Adi- 
original; Vasi-inhabitant) has recently become 
current to designate these groups. 

It may be pointed out here that different and 
often contradictory criteria have been used by the 
administrators, the lawyers, the sociologists and 
the anthropologists as a basis of their definition, 
such as colour of the skin, language, customs, 
tribal conditions and living standards. Every 
country containing a large number of such popula- 
tion has tackled the problem of definition in its 
own way, according to its own tradition, history, 
social organisation and policies. 
II. Their Origin 

The origin of India's Scheduled Tribes has 
been traced to such races as the Proto-Australoids, 
who one time practically covered the whole of 
India; secondly, the Mongolians who are still 

8 G. S. Ghurye, The Aboriginals So-Called And Their 
future (1943), p. 21 

9 Dr. R. K, Das and S. R. Das, India's Submerged 
Humanity, in Modern Review (Oct., 1955), p. 269. 


located mostly in Assam, and finally, to a limited 
extent, also to the Negritos strain as indicated by 
frizzy hair, among the Andarnanese and the Kadars 
of the South-west. 

The Scheduled Tribes of India are the earliest 
inhabitants or indigenous peoples of the country, 
who were unable to defend themselves and were 
gradually forced to recede before the invading 
hoards of such peoples as the Dravidians, Indo- 
Aryans and Mongolians coming from the West, 
North-west and North-east respectively, who were 
not only superior in numerical strength but also 
in mechanical equipment. The indigenous peoples 
thus took shelter in the mountain depths and 
thick jungles, where a considerable number of them 
are still found and have been estimated to be about 5 
millions. Those who were left behind on the 
plains gradually disappeared either by absorption or 
by acculturalization. 

Though these original tribes in India have been 
divided and sub-divided into a large number of 
subtribes, all mutually exclusive, each having the 
endogamous and exogamous clans with their town 
names and their own customs. The common 
features of all these tribes are : 

(1) They live away from the civilized world 
in the inaccessible parts lying in the 
forests and hills, 

(2) They belong either to one of the three 
stocks Negritos, Austroloids or Mango- 

(3) Speak the same tribal dialect, 


(4) Profess primitive religion known as 
"Animism" in which the worship of 
ghosts and spirits is the most important 

(5) Follow primitive occupations such as 
gleaning, hunting, and gathering of 
forest produce, 

(6) They are largely carnivorous or flesh and 
meat eaters, 

(7) They live either naked or semi-naked 
using tree barks and leaves for clothing, 

(8) They have nomadic habits and love for 
drink and dance. 10 

The Tribal Welfare Committee which met 
under the auspices of the Indian Conference of 
Social Welfare Work at Calcutta and consisted 
of anthropologists and other social workers, 
recommended the following classifications of the 
existing tribes : 

(1) Tribal Communities or those who are still 
confined to the original forest habitats 
and follow the old pattern of life; 

(2) Semi-Tribal Communities or those who 
have more or less settled down in rural 
areas and have taken to agriculture 
and allied occupations; 

(3) Accitltured Tribal Communities or those 
who have migrated to urban or semi- 

10 Report of the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes 
and Scheduled Tribes 1952. 


urban areas and are engaged in modern 
industries and vocations and have adopted 
modern cultural traits; and 

(4) Totally Assimilated Tribals in the Indian 
population. ^ 

IIL Distribution of the Tribal People 

The chief home of the tribes is in the barren 
and sparsely populated tracts of hills and jungles, 
corresponding in extent fairly closely to east 
Satpuras but encroaching eastwards and west- 
wards along the Vindhyan range through the south 
of Madhya Bharat Plateau on the eastern extremity 
of Gujarat. The only other tract where they are 
numerous are the outlying parts of Assam range 
and the hilly country that divides Assam from 
Burma. The geographical distribution of abori- 
ginals in India is reported as falling into three main 
regions in which they are concentrated : 

Firstly, the tribal people are distributed all over 
the sub-Himalayan region and the mountain valleys 
on the Eastern Frontiers of India which merge im- 
perceptibly with those of Burma in the south-east, 
i.e. in Assam, and the Central Khasi and Garo Hills. 

Secondly, the other major groups of the abori- 
ginal tribes occupy the mountain belt between 
Nurbada and the Godawari the Central barrier 
that divides the North from the Peninsular India 
has provided a shelter for these tribes from very 
ancient times. This region extends to the Santhal 
Parganas in the east, Hyderabad in the south and 


Rajasthan Gujarat with a strong Bhil population in 
the west or north-west. 

Thirdly f , the third group is found chiefly concen- 
trated in the southernmost parts of the Western 
Ghats stretching from Wynaad to Cape Comorin, 
i.e. south of the Kistna river below latitude 16 
north. From the fact that they occupy the margi- 
nal areas and also from the records in the oldest 
Tamil literature of the Sangam period, they appear 
to be one of the most ancient and primitive inhabi- 
tants now living in India having been pushed by 
the intrusion of more advanced people into their 
present habitats, where safety and shelter were 
found against increasing pressure. 

In addition to these three major zones, there 
are small groups in some parts of the country or 
within the Indian political boundaries. Of these 
the Andamanese and the Nicobarese who live in the 
Islands bearing their names, though now separated 
from the main body of India's aboriginal tribes > 
are ethnically connected with them, i' 
IV. Their Strength and Growth 

The aboriginal population of India is the most 
numerous of those in Asia concerning whom more 
or less detailed information is available. Doubts 
have been expressed about the reliability of their 
numbers for two reasons. Firstly, because of the 
difficulty of classification and secondly, because of 
deliberate misrepresentation; as after 1909, with the 
inauguration of the separate religious electorates, 
there had been an increasing pressure on the part 
of religious groups to swell their number in the 


Census. As a result of these errors, the data on the 
tribals are most inaccurate of all those gathered by 
the Census. The net effect is to understate the 
number of tribals and correspondingly to over- 
state the number of other gr oup. 

Some of the most recent statements concerning 
their numbers insist on the unreliability of the 
1941 Census figures. "Adivasis, as they are now 
called, number not less than 30 millions accord- 
ing to the verdict of scientists at the last session 
of the Indian Science Congress. As the process 
of absorption and acculturation has gone on for 
centuries and the Census enumeration of Adivasis. 
is unreliable, it would be nearer the truth to say 
that ethnically, tribal numbers would be four 
times what is shown in the Census/' 11 Another 
source states that, "the 1941 Census figures for 
these people have proved to be rather misleading^ 
for the aboriginals were confused with the so- 
called untouchables in certain places in the Census 
returns. In the last 20 years, however, they must 
have grown in numbers in keeping with the 
growth of the general population. The figure of 

25 million may not be too wide of the mark 

There is nothing common between the Aboriginals 
and the Harijans, or the so-called untouchables ^ 
because the latter are enthnically indentical with 
the Hindus." 1 * 

nl. Singh, Development and Adivasis, in Asian Labour* 
Vol. I. No. 4 (Jan. 1950). p. 52. 

12 S. Chandrasekhar, India's Population Facts and Policy, 
p. 39-40- 


The following table gives the absolute number 
of persons belonging to the tribal religion : 1 3 

Year Number in Lakhs Number Per cent of the 

per 10,000 total pop. 

1881 6,426,511 258 2-58 

1891 9,112.018 323 3'23 

1901 8.584,148 292 2'92 

1911 10,295,165 328 3.28 

1921 9,775,000 309 3'09 

1931 8,280,000 236 2-36 

In 1931 and earlier censuses, a table classifying 
the population by the religion professed was pub- 
lished. Another table was also published showing 
the population analysed by Race/Caste/Tribe. The 
system was changed in 1941. In place of two 
tables a single set was prepared in which popula- 
tion groups were differentiated into "Communi- 
ties" on a composite basis with reference to the 
answers to the Census question on "Religion" as 
well as c< Race/Caste/Tribe." According to this 
change in classification, the number of the persons 
of tribal origin was 25,441,489 as against 22,615,708 
in 1931. According to these two figures, the growth 
in the number of aborigines would be 12$% or 
slightly less than that of the total population. 1 4 

In 1948 the Conference of Social Workers and 
Anthropologists for tribal people estimated their 
number to about 25 millions of which 20 millons 
live in the plains and are assimilated with the rest 

13 Census of India^ 1901, p. 576 ; Ii/V/for 1921, p. no 
and Ibid for 1931, p. 587. 

14 Census of India 1931, Vol. I. Pt. 2. p. 522-33 and Pt. i. 
p. 503. 


of the people, more or less, and only 5 millions 
may he taken as the population residing in the 
hills. 15 According to the 1951 Census, their num- 
ber amounts to about 20 millions and they form 
about 5-6 per cent of the total population of India. 

The numerical strength of a tribe ranges from 
few hundreds to more than z million, as for exam- 
ple, among the Santhals (2,732,266 in 1941) and 
the Bhils (2,330,270) and tha Gonds (3,201,004). 
Some of the tribes have increased in number while 
others have declined considerably and hold their 
lives on slender terms. The following table will 
indicate the trend of tribal demography in India : " " 


Name of Tribe 







10,342 12,898 







Tod a 




























N, A. 






Naga Tribes 


1,39,965 2, 


N. A. 

Angami Nagas 





Lhota Nagas 





And a man cse 





In the following table will be 


a number 

1 5 Report of the Conference of the Social Workers and 
Anthropologists for Tribals in India (1948). p. 2-3. 

16 Census of India 1931, Vol. L Pt. I. p. 391 ; for 
1941 ; and Census of India Paper No. i, 1954 Languages* 
1951 Census ; p. 8. 


of larger tribal groups who have shown consider* 
able increase in numerical strength and also those 
who have shown increase but such increase has 
not been progressive : * 7 

Name of 



From the above table, it will be gathered that 
in India the most important tribes are Gond, San- 
thai, Bhil, Oraon, Kond and Munda all of these 
taken together numbered 18,838,239 in 1941. 
Other tribes, over 180 of them, numbered less 
than 500,000 each. 

In the 1951 Census, however, in conformity 
with the Government's policy of discouraging 
community distinctions based on caste, information 
about Race, Caste or Tribe has been collected only 

17 Census of India, 1921, Vol. I Pt. I. p. 112; Ibid, 
1931, Vol. I. Pt. 1 p. 391 and Ibid 9 1941. And Census of 
ltidia> Paper No. i. p. 10-17. 


1911 1921 


3,716 2,245 


1,067,792 1,795,808 


2,299 1,810 




4,20,179 440,174 


12,823 10,454 


91,841 81,202 




1,33,657 1,24,521 


7,50,289 6,98,668 


2,00,077 1,85,553 


5,58,200 5,59,662 


8,35,994 8,42,902 


20,78,035 21,89,511 


63,629 61,751 

N. A. 
N. A. 
N, A. 
N. A. 
27,32,266 28,11,578 
61,366 N.A, 



from certain groups of people who have specifi- 
cally been referred to in the Constitution. Accord- 
ingly, a person is a member "Spscial of a Group'* 
if he is a member of a "Scheduled Caste/* of a 
"Scheduled Tribe," or of any other Backward 
Class or if he is an "Anglo-Indian." Thus most of 
the submerged peoples fall into three categories, 
namely, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and 
Backward Classes, numbering respectively 20*55, 
55-0, and 35*6 millions or 5*6, 15-3 and 9*3 per 
cent of the total population. In other words, 
1 10-6 millions or 30*2 per cent of the total popula- 
tion of India are backward in social, educational 
and economic achievements, as indicated below : 

India's Submerged Population in 

Submerged Number in Million 


Scheduled Castes 20*0 

Scheduled Tribes 55-019 

Backward Glasses 35*6 

Total Backward 

People 110-6 32-2 

In addition to the above three groups of peo- 
ples, there are 198 Ex-Criminal Tribes, although 
the exact number of their population is not known. 

The following table gives the distribution of 
tribal population in different parts of the country 

18 The Second Five Year Plan gives these figures as : 
Scheduled tribes, 19 million ; Scheduled castes 51 million ; 
and Criminal Tribes, 4 million. Second Five Year Plan, 
1956, p. 588. 

19 See the Indiagram, The Embassy of India, Washing- 
ton, July 1 8, 1955, p. 742. 


and the percentage of tribal population to total 
population : 

% age of the 

Total Aboriginal Tribal Population 

State Population 20 to the Total! 1 


Assam 17,35,245 33-9 

Bihar 40,49,183 14-1 

Bombay 33,59,305 9-2 

Madhya Pradesh 24,77,025 22'6 

Madras 6,35,979 1 1 

Orissa 29,67,334 25 '4 

U. P. 05 

West Bengal 11,65,337 6'5 

Madhya Bharat 10,60,812 15*4 

Mysore 15,310 O'i 

Rajasthan 3,16,348 11 '7 

Travancore-Cochiu 26,580 1-8 

Ajmer 9,816 15'6 

Bhopal 59.114 90 

Coorg 21,084 11 '6 

Manipur 1,94,239 29'8 

Tripura 1,92,293 6'4 

Viodhya Pradesh 4,18,282 5'9 

The following table gives the percent of total population in 
each religion since 1 881-19 ji y in India** : 

1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 
Hindu 75-09 74-24 72-87 71-65 70*73 70-67 69.46 84'99 

Muslims 19-97 20'41 21*88 22'39 23*25 23-49 24-28 9-93 
Tribal 2-57 3.26 2*88 3-17 2'97 2*26 2^6 0-47 

























































(Denotes less than '005%) 

20 Census of India, Paper No. 4, 1953. Special Groups 
1951 Census, p. 15, 

21 First Five-Year Plan, 1951, p. 636. 

22 K.Davis, Population of India and Pakistan^ 19 5 1^ 
p. 178. 


It has been observed that the aboriginal popu- 
lation has been on decrease since 1911. It may 
be pointed out in this connection that while the 
aboriginal population is under ordinary circums- 
tances exceedingly prolific, the majority of them 
inhabit those parts of the country which are ex- 
posed chiefly to the ravages of malaria. 

Secondly, there has been a real absorption of 
the tribes into Hinduism in the Assam plains and 
North Cachhar Hills. 

Thirdly, the spread of Christianity among the 
tribes in Lushai, Khasi and Jaintia hills as well as 
in the Madhya Pradesh and Travancore-Cochin 
has also helped in reducing their strength. 

Fourthly, through acculturation which is the 
process of change due to the contact with other 
people and it involves acceptance and adoption 
when a tribe comes into close contact with civili- 
zation it may accept some of the traits of its neigh- 
bours so that their original traits gradually dis- 
appear and the tribal dialects are being replaced 
by Aryan languages and the tribal beliefs are 
giving way to the direct onslaught of the inhabi- 
tants of the plains. 

It would not be inappropriate to deal here in 
brief with the factors which have made the contact 
of tribes with their neighbours easy. This contact 
may result from the following factors : 

i . Existence of the mines and minerals in 
tribal areas in various parts of Bihar, Orissa, 
West Bengal coal-bearing districts and iron ore 
mines encourage immigration of alien people, part 


of which must settle down and live in their new 

2. Emigration of tribal labour to mines and 
factories situated far-away and to the distant plan- 
tations in Assam and W, Bengal, which have 
attracted a considerable amount of contractual 
labour, the main cause of such immigration being 
land alienation or expropriation of the aboriginal 
peasant proprietorship. 

3 . The opening up of the tribal areas by a 
network of communications, railways and road- 
ways has reduced the shyness of the tribal people 
with astonishing quickness and many landless 
families have settled down along the roads, while 
others make their living by catering to alien people 
domiciled in their midst. 

4. The setting up of the Missionaries in out- 
of-way and often inaccessible areas has produced 
an impact of culture, and the tribal people have 
received all sorts of help from them in their dis- 
tress and disease and fight against the Zamindar 
or Bania or both and have responded to such help 
by adopting Christianity. 

5. The administrative officers, personnel of 
the Public Health Services, the forest officials 
and their agents, contractors, traders, merchants, 
touts, litigants, lawyers, the police and thepatwaris 
or revenue agents and others whose contact with 
the tribal people has been effective enough in pro- 
ducing discomforts and disintegration of the 
culture indigenous. 


1. Introduction 

The total population of India is 356,829,485, 
out of which the Scheduled Tribes account for 
19,111,49s. 1 Article 366 (25) of the Constitution 
of India has defined "Scheduled Tribes" as "such 
tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups 
within such tribes or tribal communities as are 
deemed under article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes 
for the purpose of this Constitution/' By the 
Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950, issued 
by the President in exercise of the power conferred 
by Clause (i) of the Articles 342 of the Consti- 
tution of India, 212 tribes in 14 States have been 
declared to be Scheduled Tribes. 1 These tribes 
constitute 5-36 per cent of the total population of 
the country, /. e. out of every 1,000 Indians, 54 
belong to the tribal community. 

2. Classification 

It is a bit difficult task to classify the tribes into 
different groups. However, the Indian Com- 

i Census of lndia % Paper No. 4 (1953) Special Groups 
1951 Census ', p. 1 6. 

i Ibid. p. 38-41 and 46-47. Of these tribes 29 are 
in Assam; 24 in Bombay; 31 in M. P; 40 in Madras; 41 in 
Oiissa; 7 in West Bengal; 3 in M. B; 6 in Mysore; x8 in 
Tripura; 14 in V. P; 7 in Bhopal and 3 in Manipur. 



missioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled 
Tribes recently investigated the possibility of 
adopting a classification criterion going beyond 
the legal concept cited above. With this aim in 
view the different State Governments were asked 
to suggest the characteristics which seemed to 
them most suitable in distinguishing the so-called 
"Aboriginal" groups from the rest of the popula- 
tion. The variety of elements suggested shows 
the difficulty inherent in such an attempt. For 
instance, (/) The Assam Government gives these 
characteristic features: (a) descent from Mongoloid 
stock, (b) the members of the Tibeto-Burman 
linguistic group and (c) the existence of a unit of 
social organisation of the village clan type. (/'/') 
the Bombay Government: residence in forest 
areas; (///) the M. P. Government: tribal origin, 
speaking a tribal language and resident in forest 
areas; (iv) the Madras Government: primitive 
tribal way of life and residence in less easily 
accessible hills and in remote or interior forests, 
with little or no contact with other population 
groups; (v) the Orissa Government: pre-Dravidian 
or Mongoloid racial origin; (vf) the West Bengal 
Government: residence in jungle and tribal origin; 
(vii) the Hyderabad Government: residence in 
jungles, animistic religion, the use of local dialect, 
forcible marriage, hunting, fishing and gathering 
of forest food as the main means of subsistence, 
etc., (wit) the Mysore Government : the habitation 
in remote hilly tracts in the jungle, (v) the 
Travancore Government : habitation in the jungle, 
tribal religion and certain racial or cultural charac- 


teristics, (*) the Bhopal Government: habitation 
in remote jungle and hill districts, nomadism, 
hunting and gathering of forest fruits as the main 
means of subsistence and (xf) the Vindhya Pradesh 
Government: dark skin, flat noses, preference for 
fruits, roots and animal flesh, rather foodgrains, 
the use of bark and leaves of trees as clothes on 
ceremonial occasions, nomadism, witch-doctoring 
and the worship of ghosts and spirits. 8 

From the above description it will be evident 
that different Governments have given different 
characteristics for the people to be labelled as 
tribals, although certain features are common to 
them all. We may classify them on the basis of 
their (/') Territorial distribution; (if) Linguistic 
affiliation; (///) Occupation or economy; (iv) Cul- 
ture contact, and (v) Physical characteristics. 

(i) Territorial Distribution 

According to the first classification, they may 
be divided into four important groups : (a) the 
tribes living in the northern and north-eastern 
zone; (b) tribes inhabiting the central zone, (c) 
tribes scattered over the extreme corners of south- 
western India in the hills and the converging 
lines of the Ghats; and (d) small groups in several 
parts of the country or even within the political 
boundary of the country. 

3 L. M. Shrikant, Report of tbt Commissioner for 
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for the period ending 
jistDcc., 1951. p. 109-11 (195*) 


(a) The northern and north-eastern zone 
consists of the sub-Himalayan region and the moun- 
tain valleys on the Eastern Frontiers of India 
which merge imperceptibly with those of Burma 
in the south-east. This zone lies approximately 
between 3i7' N and 35o' N on its western enct 
23 30' N and 28o' N on its eastern end between 
7733' E and 97 o f East. The eastern most tribal 
concentration is found in Assam, Manipur and 
Tripura, where they number 2*1 million. The 
tribal areas of eastern Kashmir, East Punjab, 
Himachal Pradesh and northern U. P also fall in 
tbis zone. 

The most important tribes living between 
Assam and Tibet may be mentioned the Aka, the 
Dafla, the Miri, Gurung, and the Aptanic on the 
West of the Subansiri river, and the Gallong, the 
Minyong the Pasi, the Padam and the Pangi in 
the Dehong valley. The Mishmi tribes live in the 
high ranges between the Debong and Lohit rivers, 
the Chulikata and Belejiyas on the western and the 
Digaree and the Meju on the eastern parts. Farther 
east are found the Khamtis and the Singhops and 
beyond them, converging on the south are the 
different Naga tribes occupying the mountain 
valleys on both sides of the Patkois. 

The Naga tribes consist of five major groups: 
the Rangpan and the Konyak in the northern; the 
Rengma and the Sema, and the Angami in the 
western; the AoLahota, Phom, Chang, Santam and 
the Yimstsunger in the central; the Kacha and the 
Kabui in the southern and the Tangakhul and the 


Kalyo-Kengu in the eastern section. South of the 
Naga hills running through the States of Manipur, 
Tipperah, the Chittagong hill tracts live the 
Kukis, the Lushais, the Lakhers, the Chins, the 
Khasis and the Garos, many of whom are really 
overflows of the tribes from across the Frontiers 
or are closely related. In the Sub-Himalayan 
region in Sikkim and the northern portions of 
Dar j celling, there are a number of rather primitive 
tribes of whom the Lepchas are the best known. 
In U. P. also a number of tribes such as the 
Tharus, Bhoksa, Khasa, Korwa, Bijar, Bhuia, 
Majhi, Cheri, Raji, and Kharwar are found. 

(b) The central or the middle zone is separated 
from the north-eastern zone by the gap between 
the Garo hills and Rajmahal hills and consists of 
plateaus and mountainous belt between the Indo- 
Gangetic plain to the north and roughly the 
Krishna river to the South. This zone lie approxi- 
mately between 2Oo' N and 25 o' N and 73 o' E 
and 9Oo' East. In this zone we have another 
massing of tribal peoples in M. P. with extensions 
in U. P., M. B. and Hyderabad, Southern Rajas- 
than, Northern Bombay, Bihar, Orissa. Northern 
Rajasthan, Southern Bombay and Bastar form the 
peripheral areas of this zone. The important tribes 
inhabiting this zone beginning from the Eastern 
Ghats and Orissa hills are the Savara, Gadabi, and 
Borido of the Ganjam district; the Juang Kharia, 
Khond, Bhumij and the Bhuiya of the Orissa hills. 
In the plateau of the Chota Nagpur live the 
Mundas, the Santhals, the Oraons, the Hos and 


the Birhors. Further west along the Vindhya 
ranges live the Katkaris, Kols and the Bhils, the 
latter extending as far as north-west as the Aravalli 
hills. The Gonds form the largest group and 
occupy what is known as the 'Gondwanaland' and 
extend southwards into Hyderabad and the 
adjoining States of Kankar and Bastar. 

On both sides of the Satpuras and around the 
Maikal hills are found similar tribes like the Korku, 
the Agaria, the Pardhan and the Baigas. In the 
hills of Bastar State live some of the most pictur- 
esque of these tribes, vi%. the Murias, the Hill 
Murias of the Adbhujhamar hills and the Bison- 
horn Marias of the Indravati valley. Majority of 
these people show similarity of race and culture. 

(c) The third zone consists of that part of the 
Southern India which falls south of the river 
Krishna (below latitude 16 N) stretching from 
Wynaad to Cape Comorin. This zone approximate- 
ly lies between 8o' N and zoo' N and 75 o' E 
and 85o' East. Hyderabad, Mysore, Coorg, 
Travancore-Cochin, Andhra and Madras fall 
within this zone. From the fact that they occupy 
these marginal areas and also from the records in 
the oldest Tamil literature of the Sangam period 
they appear to be one of the most ancient and 
primitive inhabitants now living in India having 
been pushed by the intrusion of more advanced 
people into their present habitats, where safety 
and shelter were found against increasing pressure. 

Beginning from the north-east the Chenchus 
occupy the area of the Nallaimallais hills across 


the Krishna and into the Hyderabad State. Along 
the western Ghats from the Koraga of South 
Kanara, the Yeruvas and the Todas living in the 
lower slopes of Coorg hills; the Irulas, Paniyans 
and Kurumbas of Wynaad, and stretching almost 
to Cape Comorin along the ranges of Cochin and 
Travancore and sheltered in the isolation of the 
forest are found the most primitive of Indian 
aboriginal such as Kadars, Kanikkars, Malvadan, 
Malakurvan, with many of their original traits still 

(d) In addition to these three major zones there 
is a fourth small and isolated zone consisting of 
Andamans and Nicobar Islands. The main tribes 
living in this zone are the Jarawa, Onge, North 
Sentineless, the Andmanese and the Nicobarese, 
though separated from the main body of India's 
aboriginal tribes are ethnically connected with 

(ii) Linguistic Affiliation 

Linguistically these tribes may be divided into 
a number of groups based on their affiliation to 
the various families of languages : 

(a) The Austro-Asiatic linguistic branch under 
which come the Kol or Munda speeches of the 
Central and Eastern India, Khasi of Assam. 
Nicobarese in the Nicobar Islands. San tali 
(2,811,578 speakers), found in Bihar, Orissa, West 
Bengal and Assam; Mundari (536,338); Ho (599, 
876); Kharia (180,000); Bhumij (101,508) Garo 
(239,816); Khasi (230,982) and few other which 


belong to Bihar and Assam. The language of 
Korku (170,607) is spoken in M. P. and Berar; 
while Savana (Saora) (256,259) and Gadaba are 
spoken in Orissa. Outside the Kol group, there 
is the language of Nicobarese (only 10,000) in the 
Nicobar Islands. 4 

(b) The Dravidian Linguistic Group is popular 
in Central and Southern India. It is spoken by 
Gonds Gondi (1,232,886) in M. P., Hyderabad 
and Andhra States ; Khondh or Khond (280,561) 
in Orissa ; Kui (206,509) ; the Kurukh or Oraon 
(644,042) in Bihar and Orissa ; Mai to (71,000) in 
Rajmahal hills in Bihar. The other tribes under this 
group are : Maler, Polia, Saora, Koya, Paniyan, 
Chenchu, Irulas, Kadar, Malser and Malakurwan. 5 

(c) The Tibeto- Chinese family includes the 
tribal languages of various people belonging to the 
Mongoloid element and found along the southern 
slopes of the Himalayas, from northern Punjab to 
Bhutan and also in northern and eastern Bengal 
and in Assam, e.g., the Nagas, the Kuki, the Ab- 
hors, the Dafla, the Miris, the Khasi and the 

(iii) Occupational Classification 

The tribes of India not only speak different 
languages, but also have distinctive economy of 
their own. They live in different economic stages 
tanging from food gathering and hunting through 

4 Census of India, Paper, No, i, 1954 Languages 195 1 
Census, p, 8. The figures in the bracket denote the num- 
ber of speakers. 

5 Ibid, p. 8, 


shifting cultivation to settled plough cultivation, e.g., 
the Birhot, Kharia, Korua and Hill Maraia Mala- 
pantaram, Kadar, the Paniyan, etc. The Paliyan de- 
pend on food-gathering and hunting for their liveli- 
hood. The Baiga, Pauri (hill) Bhuiyan, Jhuang Maria, 
Khond, Naga and Kutia Kandh are shifting culti- 
vators. The Munda, Bhils, Baiga, Gond, Majhwar, 
Kharwar and Ho Santal and Oraon depend pri- 
marily on permanent plough cultivation for their 
living. The Naga tribes have developed a system 
of terraced cultivation with elaborate means of irri- 
gation by aqueducts. 

Dr. Hutton classified these tribes into three 
groups : (i) Primitive tribes collecting forest pro- 
duce, (ii) Primitive tribes, pastoral and (iii) tribes 
practising agriculture, hunting, fishing and indus- 

The following table shows the economic 
status of the tribes : 6 


U. P. 


. Bengal 

Shifting or Jhum 
Hunting and cultivation, 

collecting lumbering, 

stage manufacturing 

catech u 

Raji Karwa, Saberia, 

Bhuia, Khaiwar 

Kharia, Kadars Korwa, Asur 

Kuki, Konyak 


Naga tribes, Ga- 
ros Lakhers 

Garos, Malpaha* 

Settled agricultu- 
rists who keep 
poultry, rattle, know 
weaving, spinning, 
pottery and terraced 

Tharu, Majhi, Bind, 
Bhokasa, Khasa, Kol. 

Munda, Ho, Tama- 
ria, Oraon, Korwa, 

Khasi, Manipuri 
Folia, Santhals, 

6 D. N. Majumdar, Races and Cultures of India, p. 92. 


M. P. Hill Maia Maria, Dandami, Parja, Bhatra, Baigat 

Maria, Gond, 

Baiga, Kamar 

Madras & Chcnchu, Ku- Khonds, Kurum- Badapa, Kota, Int 
Hyderabad rumba Koya, ba, Gonds, Saora, Las, Parja 

Paliyan Conta Mudavan 
Reddi, Hill Pan- 
taram Paniyan, 

Orissa J ua ^8 Saora 

Bombay & 

Rajasthan Bhih Bhils Bhils and Gond 

(iv) Physical Characteristics 

Physically the tribes of the north-east frontier 
are Mongoloid with light skin colour, straight and 
-dark hair and flat nose and prominent cheek bones. 
Majority of them are of medium stature with long 
heads, scanty hair growth on body and face and 
almond-shaped eyes. All these tribes, including 
the women, are muscular with great development 
of calf-muscles. They are great mountaineers and 
carry considerable amount of loads to high alti- 
tudes. They are healthy, hard-working and of inde- 
pendent spirit and their life is well balanced with 
democratic councils and considerable stress on 
personal liberty of thought and action. They have 
childlike simplicity and are very honest but not 
trained for sustained labour and concentration of 
mind. ~- 

This type is represented by the Nagas, semi- 
Nagas, Chakmas, Mughs, and Lepchas. 

(b) In the central zone the Negrito strain is 
most marked. The tribes very largely conform to 
the pattern of what are called the "Austroloid 


characters." Physically they are from short to 
medium stature, dark skinned with long head, and 

generally possessing curly but not frizzly hairs, 
road and flat nose but depressed at the root, fleshy 
everted lips. They are strong, muscular and well- 

This type is represented by the tribes like the 
Chenchus, Kurumbas, the Yeruvas, Malayans, 
Munda, Kols, Santhals and the Bhils. 

(c) In the southern zone there is an undoubted 
Negrito strain, although at present greatly sub- 
merged, but still surviving among some of the 
more primitive and isolated of these tribes such 
as the Kadars of Perambiculam, hills of Cochin, 
and the Irulas and Panyans of the Wynaad. Physi- 
cally they are of short to medium stature, of deep 
chocolate brown skin colour, small head, bulbous 
forehead, smooth brow- ridges and feeble chins. 
The face is short and protruding and the nose flat 
and broad and the lips are thick and everted, the 
head shape is long, hair fine and of wooly nature 
and the body well developed. 

At the present time they are greatly intermixed 
and it is only in the extreme interior that more 
archaic types are to be found, 
(iv) Classification according to culture-contact 

There are four main cultural divisions among 
the aboriginals. 7 "The first two classes consist of 
the comparatively small block of real primitives 

7 V. Elwin, The Aboriginals (O. U, P. Pamphlet cm 
Indian Affairs No. 14), p, 8-12. 


living in the hills. Their religion is characteristic 
and alive ; their tribal organisation is unimpaired ; 
their artistic and choreographic traditions are 
unbroken; their mythology still vitalizes the healthy 
organism of tribal life. Geographical conditions 
have largely protected them from the debasing 
contacts of the plains". 

The wilder aboriginals have to be sub-divided 
into two sections : (a) the first class in the most 
primitive and simple stage of all is comprised 
of Hill Marias of Bastar State, the Juangs of 
Keonjhar and Pal-Labara, the Gadabas and Bondos 
of Orissa, the Baigas of I 3 andaria and Kawaedha, 
many of smaller communities and more isolated 
villages even of comparatively sophisticated tribes. 
This group has the following characteristics : 
(i) Its members live a largely communal life like 
those of the Hill Marias, Hill Baigas and the 
Juangs (ii) Economically they share one another ; 
(iii) Their life still centres round a peculiar form 
of agriculture (Jhum) and (iv) They are shy of 
strangers but among themselves honest, simple 
and innocent. Crime is rare and women virtuous. 

(b) The second class of aboriginals live in coun- 
try equally remote and they are equally attached to 
their solitude and to their ancient traditions but 
they have begun to change in many ways. The 
important tribes of their class are Bison-horn 
Marias or the Bhomia and Binjhwar and Baigas. 
Their chief characteristics are : (i) Their village 
life has become individualistic, (ii) They no longer 
share things with one another, (iii) Axe-cultivation 


is more a habit rather than a part of their life ; (iv) 
They are more accustomed to outside life and are 
generally less simple and honest than the above class. 

(c) The third class of aboriginals is the most 
numerous. It consists of all those who under the 
influence of external contact have begun to lose 
their stronghold on tribal culture, religion and 
social organisation. 

(d) The fourth class, which consists of the old 
aristocracy of the country represented today by the 
great Bhil, Naga chieftains, the Gond Rajas, a few 
Bin jh war and Bhiuya landlords, Korku noblemen, 
wealthy Santhal and Utaon leaders and some highly 
cultured Mundas. These retain the old tribal 
name and their clan and totem rules and observe 
elements of tribal religion though they generally 
adopt the full Hindu faith and live in modern style. 

Process of Transformation of Tribal Cultures 

The process through which the tribal cultures 
are usually transformed or modified may be either : 
(i) simple adoption, which means the acquisition 
of technical skill, adoption of tools, implements, 
ideas, customs and rites by one social group from 
another, e.g. the Warli of Thana district is yet 
simple and unostentatious, put on a loin cloth 
without anything on his head but his colleague in 
the south being in much contact with the Kolis 
puts on a shirt, dhoti and turban after the latter's 
fashion. Similar taking over of the elements of 
material culture from neighbouring groups is found 
in all tribes today especially the Bhils, the Gonds 
and the Santhals, etc. 


(ii) Acculturation is the process of change due 
to contacts with other people. It involves accep- 
tance and adoption. A tribe in contact with 
civilization may accept some of the traits of their 
neighbours such as the employment of Hindu 
priest in indigenous ceremonies and festivals 
among some of the tribes in Bihar is an example 
of simple acceptance. Similarly Munda tribes 
have accepted some of the cultural traits from 
their neighbours, while Raj ban sis have shown an 
adaptation to Hindu culture. The Lambadis of 
the Deccan have taken to agriculture, they have 
adopted the dress of their neighbours and tribe is 
divided into sections based on occupations. Simi- 
lar adaptation is found among certain sections 
of the Gonds, the Raj Gonds and the Navgharia 
Gonds and the Bhils. 

(iii) Assimilation, /". e. by a gradual drift to 
Hinduism. When certain members of a primitive 
tribe move down into the plains they tend to 
become assimilated in contrast to other members 
who remain behind. The evidence of assimilation 
in many cases is apparent. Certain Santhals of 
Bengal give distinctly Hindu names to their child- 
ren, practise child-marriage before the age of 7, 
revere the Tulsi plant, abstain from beef, cleanse 
"their living quarters with cowdung, decline food 
cooked by Muslims, cremate their dead and place 
the vermillion mark and the iron bangle upon 
their wives." 8 

8 Census of India, Vol. V (Bengal and Sikkim), Pt. 
1931 p. 383. 


Effects of Culture Contacts 

The effects of such contacts have been very far- 
reaching on the life of the aboriginals. Contacts 
with civilisation have undermined social solidarity, 
invaded tribal security, introduced discomforts, 
diseases and vices. The results may be detailed 
as below : 

(i) The rapid opening up of the means of com- 
munications has resulted more in conflict than in 
useful contact not necessarily a conflict of arms but 
of culture and material interest. Says Dr. Hutton, 
"Attempts to develop minerals, forests or land for 
intensive cultivation can only be made at the expense 
of the tribes whose isolation is thus invaded : 
tribal customs which regulate the ownership, usu- 
fruct or transfer of land are normally superseded 
by a Code in the application of which the tribe is 
deprived of its property, generally in the name of 
law, either by alienation to foreigners or by trans- 
ferring the trusteeship of a tribal chief into absolute 
ownership of a kind foreign to the customs of a 
tribe. The complicated system of administration 
of justice has tended to impair the natural truthful- 
ness and honesty of the people and social solidarity 
of the tribes has weakened the authority of the 
social heads and the respect they formerly com- 
manded." In spite of the best intentions a lot of 
injustice is done to the aboriginals by the Judges 
and Magistrates and the police officers of all grades 
owing to their ignorance of customs and mensality 
of the aboriginal tribes they have to deal with. 


(ii) The introduction of the outstill system in 
tribal area in mines and industrial centres, where 
they frequent for employment, has led to an increase 
in drunkenness and immorality. "The temptation 
of distilary liquor", wrote Shri S. C. Roy, "intro- 
duced by the Government in some aboriginal areas 
is another evil that is working havoc, economi- 
cally, morally and physically/' 

(iii) One of the most important effects of con- 
tacts has been the spread of diseases in tribal 
areas. Mills has shown, while writing about the 
effects on some primitive tribes of Assam of con- 
tact with civilization, "That improved communica- 
tions while they have immensely facilitated internal 
trade, have undoubtedly spread disease; not only 
have specific diseases such as venereal diseases and 
T. B. been introduced but epidemics spread more 
quickly. The opening of the road to Manipur has 
led to an increase in prostitution.'' Emigration 
of labour from tribal areas to plantations and 
factories where conditions are not favourable to 
settlement has been the main source for the spread 
of epidemic diseases. The lure of free life unham- 
pered by social control pulls women to plantations 
and factories where they are tempted to a corrupt 
life and the large incidence of V. D. like syphilis 
and diabetes, gonnorohea, etc., among the labou- 
rers is directly traceable to such indiscriminate 
mixing of the sexes. Missionaries and the philan- 
throphic agencies have caused T. B., and other 
contact diseases to spread in tribal areas through 
indiscretion, as for example, doling out second 


hand clothes and apparels collected from the dead 
or diseased population, which are a foci of in- 

(iv) Urban contacts have everywhere disorga- 
nised primitive social life. The village has ceased 
to be living community; it is now an aggregate of 
isolated units. Old myths are being forgotten and 
the old gods neglected. Many of the traditional 
dances which used to provide recreation to the 
youths of both sexes, translate joys and sorrows 
are being abandoned and village politics, rivalry 
and social disputes are replacing their old-time 
recreation. The effects of this transfer of interests 
have already been evident in the high incidence 
of imported diseases, poor physique, inferiority 
complex and a bitter Antagonism against advanced 
groups in the neighbourhood. 

(v) A large number of tribes have been living 
on hunting and collection of jungle products 
supplemented by Jhum cultivation. The effects of 
Jhum cultivation have led to strict rules regarding 
denudation of forests and today many of the tribes 
(who lived by shifting cultivation) have come 
down to the plains though most have not suc- 
ceeded in adapting themselves to other kinds of 
agriculture found in the plains. This is mostly 
due to tribal inertia, shyness of the aborigines, 
apathy pf administration and as Dr. Hutton says, 
< c may be due to ignorance of appropriate magico- 
religious ceremonial necessary for other types of 



(vi) Many tribes have failed to maintain their 
tribal structures and have either been assimilated 
with more vital stock or have withdrawn them- 
selves from contacts as a defensive measure. The 
Andamanese, Korwas, Todas and Chenchus are 
on evil days and are preparing themselves for exit. 
Some other tribes have left their tribal moorings 
and have settled in the neighbourhood of higher 
cultural groups whom they serve. Today they 
have developed some sort of interdependence. 
The Gond tribe of M. P. and Bhils of southern- 
eastern Rajasthan may be taken as an example. 

(vii) The nomadic tribes who secured their 
livelihood by catering to the periodical require- 
ments of settled communities as the Marwaris 
or the Lakhota supplying agricultural implements 
to the latter or repairing their indigenous tools 
and utensils, the Nats supplying crude nostrums 
for the restoration of the lost manhood, the Kan- 
jars providing amusements, acrobatics and dances 
for the village communities, find it difficult to 
continue their customary life and have enlisted 
themselves into the ranks of criminal tribes whose 
attention to the rural communities is a perpetual 
concern of the administration. 

(viii) Lastly, the itinerant seller of goods and 
trinkets, the moneylender, the licensee of excise 
shops, collectors of lac, honey and other forest 
produce are mostly aliens in culture and language. 
They have settled in tribal areas and have taken 
advantage of the gradual drift of tribal society 
from a moneyless economy to one in which ex- 
change depends on the circulation of money. The 


implications of money economy are better under- 
stood by them and thus they have succeeded in 
solidly entrenching themselves in tribal areas and 
today they are a source of great discomfort to the 
tribal people. In many areas the land has passed 
from the aborigines to the moneylenders and 
sahukars who make the very people work for 


What part do the tribal people play in the 
economy of a country is hard to estimate, because 
the grading of the tribes on the basis of their 
economic life and occupations and in accordance 
with any approved schemes of classification is 
indeed difficult as most of the tribes possess 
either marginal culture or follow more than one 
occupation. The tribal stage does not provide for 
any specialisation of functions and as such a variety 
of occupations are followed by a tribe. A tribe 
uses all kinds of occupations to eke out its sub- 
sistence and combines hunting with honey gather- 
ing, lumbering with chase, shifting cultivation 
with domestication of animals. 1 

Shri Thurnwald has listed the following types 
of economic life, which incidentally are also met 
with in tribal India 2 : 

i. Homogeneous communities of men as 
hunters and trappers, and women as collectors. 
The Chenchus, the Kadars, the Kharia, the Korwa, 
the Birhors and the Kurumbas are some of the 
Indian tribes belonging to this group. 

J P. G. Menon, Census of India, 1931, Vol. I., Pt. III. 
B., p. 216. 

1 R. Thurnwald, Economics in Primitive Communities^ 193 2. 


2. Homogeneous communities of hunters, 
trappers and agriculturists. The Baigas, the 
Birhors, the Kamar belong to this class. 

3. Grade Society of hunters, trappers, agricul- 
turists and artisans. Most of our tribes belong 
to this category but the most important examples 
are the Chero and the Agaria. 

4. The Herdsmen. Todas and some sections 
of Bhils may be included under this category. 

5. Homogeneous hunters and herdsmen. This 
category is not represented by Indian tribes. The 
Todas do not hunt, nor do they catch fish or birds. 

6. Ethnically stratified cattle-breeders and 
traders. The Bhotiyas of the sub-Himalayan re- 
gion of U. P. breed yak and jibus and are traders 

7. Socially graded herdsmen with hunting, 
agricultural and artisan population. 

Both Forde and Herskovits agree as to a five- 
fold division of economies among the tribes: (i) 
collectional, (ii) hunting, (iii) fishing, (iv) cultiva- 
tion and (v) stock-raising, and a people need not 
abandon one economy to adopt another. 

Nieboer divides economic life into: (i) gleaners* 
(ii) hunters, (iii) fishers, (iv) agricultural nomads 
or hunter-agriculturists, (v) settled agriculturists 
of a lower grade who also hunt or tend cattle, 
and (vi) superior farmers who have implements 
and (vii) nomad shepherds. 


The I. L. O. Committee on Living and Work- 
ing Conditions of Aboriginal Populations in In- 
dependent Countries classifies the indigenous 
populations according to their occupations in five 
groups thus 3 : 

(i) Nomadic or semi-nomadic forest-dwelling 
tribes which live by hunting, fishing and food- 
gathering and sometimes also by primitive forms 
of agriculture on land cleared by burning. 

(ii) Semi-nomadic tribes living in geographi- 
cally and economically marginal areas, engaged in 
subsistence agriculture or grazing or both and in 
gathering vegetable raw materials for handicrafts. 

(iii) Settled independent farmers or stock raisers, 
working on an individual or collective basis. 

(iv) Tenant labourers, bound to the estates by 
a traditional semi-feudal system entailing a number 
of personal obligations to the land-owners. 

(v) Wage-earners, who constitute the main 
source of labour on plantations, cattle ranches, 
mining, forestry, etc. 
i. Agriculture 

Broadly speaking, the tribes in north-eastern 
India are settled agriculturists living on terraced 
fields, while shifting cultivation is the prevalent 
form of food production in the central zone. In 
the southern zone, economic life in based mainly 
on the collection of forest produce. Shifting 
cultivation is, however, a common feature in all 

3 1. L. O : Living and Working Conditions of Aboriginal 
Populations in Independent Countries. 


zones. Hunting, fishing and minor cottage indus- 
tries such as basket making, etc., are the most 
important subsidiary occupations. 

In the most hilly tracts the agricultural produce 
consists generally of coarse grains, in other areas 
rice, wheat and jo war are produced. Cultivation 
by means of cutting down a patch of forest and 
then planting seeds in the burnt earth and ashes 
with the help of a digging stick is perhaps capable 
of supporting about 20 to 30 people per sq. mile. 
Predatory form of axe-cultivation is quite popular 
among many of the Mongolian tribes living near 
the north-eastern border of India. In central belt 
also a few tribes like the Bhuiya, the Juang or the 
Savara practise this type of cultivation. As the 
methods of agriculture followed by the tribal people 
are primitive and crude, there is generally no pro- 
duction surplus. An important subsidiary occu- 
pation for the aborigines is employment by the 
forest departments and their contractors. 

The following table shows occupational distri- 
bution of Scheduled Tribes according to 1951 
census 4 : 

Occupation Males Females Total Per cent 

Owners 6,276,023 6,266,991 12,543,014 

Tenants 957,046 916,775 1,873,821 

Labourers 1,402,883 1,400,283 2,803,171 

Absentee landlords 29,686 34,568 64,254 

Total 8,665,638 8,618,622 17,284,260 90 

4 Census of India, Paper. No. 4 (1953) Special Groups 
1951 Census, pp. 16-21. 


NCR- Agricultural 

Production other than 
cultivation 411,288 353,696 764,984 

Commerce 59,467 64,174 123.641 

Transport 33,966 28,588 62,554 

Other services and mis- 
cellaneous 442,474 428,769 871,243 

Total 947,195 875,227 1,822,422 10 

Total Population of Sche- 
duled Tribes 9,617,905 9,498,593 19,116,498 5 

From this table it will be seen that 90 per cent 
of the total population of the tribal people are 
dependent on agriculture, as against 70 per cent 
among the general population. The following 
table gives the number of tribal people per 1,000 
people engaged in different occupations, as also 
among the general population 5 : 

Number per 7,000 persons 

General Population Tribal People 

Agricultural Classes 1000 70 

Non-Agricultural Classes 1000 17 

Cultivators of land 1000 75 

Tenants 1000 59 

Cultivating Labourers 1000 63 

Absentee Landlords 1000 12 

Production other than cultivstion 1000 20 

Commerce 1000 6 

Transport 1000 1 1 

Other services and miscellaneous 1000 20 

Wherever the virgin forest abound Jhum or 
shifting cultivation has been in vogue and it is 
known by different names in different parts of 

Ibid., p. 3. 


the country. In northern India it is called Daya, 
in southern India it is known as Poduar, Bodaga, 
in the Ganjam Agency Tracts, Deppa in Bastar 
State, ]hum in Assam, Khil in the Himalayas, Kumari 
in Western Ghats, and Walra in S. E. Rajasthan. 6 
The Bhuiyas distinguish two forms of it : dahi and 
'Koman ; the Maria call it Penda y and Baiga call it 
Bewar. The usual method is to fell trees, burn 
them and to sow in the ashes either broadcast or 
by digging holes on the ground and putting all 
sorts of seeds together. All these wasteful ways 
of subsistence are being followed on a much larger 
scale in the Sirohi, Udaipur and Dungarpur dis- 
tricts of Rajasthan as the forest tribes of Bhils, 
Meenas, Gerasias find it more and more difficult 
to live by robbery and being pent up within their 
own wilds are compelled to draw their food from 
the soil. 7 While agriculture is thus clearly the 
main occupation, the more advanced tribes are 
giving evidence of a growing diversification, tribal 
economy depending in each case on the raw 
materials available and the manpower demand in 
the region. 

The Gonds of M. P. are gradually abandoning 
agriculture and taking up employment in charcoal 
burning, forestry, the transport of firewood, 
gathering of forest fruits and the manufacture of 
bamboo articles. The Oraons are coming down in- 
to the plains to engage in primitive agriculture. 
The Bhils of Bombay and Udaipur Division prefer 

Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. III., p. 25. 
7 Rajputana Gazetteer \ Vol. I, p. 23. 


settled agriculture, which they have practised for 
last 1 50 years, even when they have to work the 
land as wage-earners. In Hyderabad the same 
tribe, though it lives by gathering forest produce, 
fishing and hunting, prefers some settled occupa- 
tions and when the Bhils can obtain land they show 
great aptitude for agriculture. Lacking land and 
drought animals they work as seasonal or day 
labourers. 8 

The Santhals are almost all agriculturists. In 
the same group falls the Majhwars, Kharwars 
and the Korwas of U. P. The first two have 
abandoned their wild habits and have learned the 
rudiments of crude agriculture from their neigh- 
bours. 9 

Among the Kolams in M, P. the practice of 
Podu cultivation is disappearing. Only those 
near the hills practise it. With increased facilities 
of improved methods of agriculture, the Kolam 
is giving up readily the method of Podu. 10 

In Assam, agriculture is the general practice 
among the eastern tribes. The cultivation of 
fruits, coffee and tea has been introduced and taken 
up with avidity. 11 

8 For further details, see various articles in Tribes of 
India, Vol. I and II published by Adin.jati Sevak Sangb, 

* D. N. Majumdar, Fortunes of Primitive Tribes. 

10 P. S. Rao, Among the Gonds of Adilabad > 1949, 
p. 64. 

11 Census of lndia % 1931, Vol. I, Ft. III. p. 149. 


The main occupation of the Tharus and 
Bhoksas in Bengal, U. P., West Bihar and Orissa 
is agriculture, supplemented by occasional hunting 
and fishing. The Bhotiyas furnish a transition 
between primarily agricultural and primarily pas- 
toral people. 12 The Todas are purely a pastoral 
race remaining in India. 

2. Hunting, Fishing and Gathering 

About half a century ago only a little less than 
50 percent of the hill tribes of southern India 
-depended to a great extent on food gathering 
and the collection of food gathering for sale or 
barter in the plains. At present such hill tribes as 
still subsist on food gathering without any agricul- 
tural production of their own are not numerically 
strong. Dependent hunters, who do not practise 
agriculture but live on the outskirts of villages 
and come into the markets to sell jungle pro- 
duce include the Yanadi, Chenchu, Korumba, the 
smaller tribes of western Madras, Hyderabad and 
Travancore-Cochin, and the Katodi of Baroda. 
However, in all the large tribes there are sections 
which live almost entirely on jungle produce before 
the autumn crop is harvested. 13 

In Travancore the Pantarams are a nomadic 
hunting tribe but there is an understanding among 
the various groups that they shall not roam over 
each other's domain in quest of food. 14 

13 S. D. Pant, Social Economy of the Himalayas, p. 43-44. 
W. H. Gilbert, Peoples of India, p. 75. 
* Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt, III. B., p. 


The Bagatas of Madras are principally cultiva- 
tors but about 2 5 % of them live by coolie work 
and the collection and sale of minor forest pro- 
duce such as honey, soapnut, myrobolan, tama- 
rind, adda leaves, etc. 15 

The Bhils of Bombay, Rajas than and M. B 
live not only by primitive agriculture, but also 
depend on hunting and pastoral pursuits. 

The other means of earning bread are wood and 
fodder cutting and selling, charcoal burning,, 
gathering of wild fruits, honey, gum, wax and 
service in military service. 16 

3. Handicrafts 

A number of primitive tribes in various regions 
engage in basket making, spinning and weaving* 
In Assam, the most widely practised craft is the 
manufacture of cloth from cotton dyed with indi- 
genous vegetables. The people, Mombas and Sher- 
dukpen, north of the Brahamputra make fine bowls, 
cleanly varnished and ornamented with delicate 
silver work. 

In M. P. the Maria Gonds are mainly occupied 
in distilling spirits from the products of the forests. 
The Sawara, the Konds, and the Gonds also take 
to cow-herding, metal working, weaving, cane 
working and pottery. The Korwas in some regions 
smelt iron and forge their own weapons and imple- 

16 A. Aiyappan, Report on the Socio- 'Economic Conditions 
of tht Aboriginal Tribes of Province of Madras, p, 72. 

lf Indian Geographical journal, Vol. XXX. No. * 
(1946), p. 73- 


tnents. The Aghatias of M. P. are traditional 
smelters of iron and forge a variety of tools and 
implements of daily use. 

The Ghasis make gut from the fibrous issue of 
the animals. The Tharus in addition to farming 
make furniture and household utensils, baskets, 
musical instruments, weapons, ropes and mats. 
Baskets and mats are manufactured by the women 
from bamboo and reed for sale in the weekly 
markets and fairs. 17 

The Irulas of Madras also make bamboo mats 
and baskets, as well as ploughs and wheels. 1 8 

The Bhotiyas have developed a special aptitude 
for spinning and weaving wool into beautiful and 
durable fabrics. The women have a sound know- 
ledge of the treatment, grading and dyeing of the 
wools. 1 

4. Mining 

Some of the aboriginal tribes, living ; n the 
neighbourhood of the main collieries specially in 
Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal work in the 
coal-mines. In M. P. also the bulk of the coal- 
mining labour belong to such tribes as Gonds, 
Mawasipuds and Mahars. Some of the aboriginal 
groups show special aptitude and skill in particular 
operations. The Santhals are good pick miners and 

17 D. N. Majumdar, The Fortunes of the Primitive Tribes, 
p. 83-84. 

18 A. Aiyappan, Op. Cit., p. 140. 

19 S. D. Pant, Op. 9 Cit., p. 61-64. 


coal-cutters. 20 Almost all the unskilled labour 
force in the mines and quarries of the Tata Iron 
and Steel Company (about 17,000) is aboriginal, 
In the Manganese mines too about 50 percent 
of the labour employed is still aboriginal. 21 In 
the iron-ore industry also the labour force employ- 
ed by the contractors consists of largely Santhals 
andKols. In Bihar mica industry some 250,000 
aboriginals find employment. Before the war 70 
per cent of the workers in these mines were San- 
thals, this proportion has now dropped down to 
25 per cent mainly on account of migration to 
tea plantations of Assam. 22 

5. Plantations 

Over half a million adult workers and the same 
number of children are employed in the plantation 
estates of Assam. About 50 per cent of this num- 
ber is aboriginal the Gonds, Konds, and Santhals 
and much of it comes from other States of southern 
and central India, by recruitment under the Tea 
Districts Emmigrant Labour Act (XXII of 
193 2). 23 During 1949-50 over 25,000 persons 
were recruited outside Assam over 10,000 from 

* S. R. Deshpande, Report on an "Enquiry into Conditions 
of Labour in Coal Mining in India, 1946, p. 21. 

21 Rege, Labour Investigation Committees Main Report 
1946, p. 75. 

M C. M. Rajgarhia, Mining^ Processing and Uses of Indian 
Mica, 1951- 

* 3 For methods of recruitment and measures taken to 
protect the forest workers and better their conditions, Rege, 
Op. Cit. 


Bihar, 9,670 from Orissa and over 4,500 fronr 

M. P.24 

6. Forestry 

Aboriginals are also employed in collecting 
forest produce as well as in other works in the 
forests either for the government department 
directly or for contractors. The contractors obtain 
from the Government the right to collect forest 
produce fruits, bark, dyes, myrobolans, leaves for 
bidi-making, lac, gum, resin, wax, and fodder of a 
demarcated area of the forest, or to cut timber for 
themselves or as agents of the government. They 
may also be engaged in the manufacture of wood, 
charcoal, and catechu as in the south-eastern Rajas- 
than in the districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and 

7. Serf- Labour 25 

Aboriginals are also forced to perform compul- 

24 Rege, Op. Cit. 

15 For interesting account of Serf- Labour in India see,, 
S. C. Dubey : The Kamar, 1951 ; C. B. Mamoria : Agri- 
cultural Proletariat in India, Modern Review, Oct/Nov., 
1952 ; Dinkar Desai : Agrarian Serfdom in India, in Indian 
Sociologists, 1942 ; D. N. Majumdar : Experiment in Tribal 
Life in Indian Journal of Social Work, 1950 ; K. G. Sivas- 
wamy, Serf Labour Among the Aboriginals, in the Indian 
Journal of Social Work\ and his Forced Labour in Agri 
culture, in Asian Labour Quarterly, 1949 ; A, M. Lorenzo ; 
Agricultural Labour Conditions in Northern India, 1950 ; 
S. D. Patel ; Agricultural Labour in Modern India and 
Pakistan, 1952 ; and Agrarian Reforms Committee Report, 
1952. Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee Report Vol I, 


sory labour 26 for local authorities, landlords or 
contractors, as would be clear from the Report of 
the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Sche- 
duled Tribes. "In spite of the vigorous efforts of the 
government forced labour is still in existence and 
it is mostly the Scheduled Castes and also the 
Scheduled Tribes who are suffering on account of 
this unlawful practice." 37 According to the same 
authority in spite of the constitutional prohibition 
of forced labour in general, the State is empowered 
to impose compulsory service for public pur- 

The tenants are compelled to do some type of 
agricultural labour in landlord's fields for a num- 
ber of days either without wages or for some very 
meagre wages. Sometimes his family members 
are also made to work for the landlord. Land- 
lords sometimes advance loans to their tenants, 
grant them house-sites and thus bind them to 

2t The Indian Labour Year Bock 9 1950, defines forced 
labour as : "work or service, whether with or without 
payment which is expected from a person against his will 
either by the government for public purposes under legal 
provisions or by landlords or creditors, or by other private 

In the first category are included certain commercial 
services rendered by aborigines for sanitation or the upkeep 
of public property. The second category includes work or 
service exacted by Zamindars, malguzars, and other non- 
cultivating land-owners or proprietors from their tenants. 
Vide, p. z68. 

17 L. M. Shrikant, Report of the Commissioner for Schc* 
duled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1951,?. 26. 


tender service for ever. a 8 This system for forced 
labour is prevalent not only in Madras in various 
districts but also in Bombay, Hyderabad and M. P. 
In Bombay all jungle tract tenants are liable to be 
called upon to work for their landlords. This 
forced labour is demanded for as many days as 

are necessary for the landlords* requirements 

The maximum remuneration is i anna per day. 
More often rice is given, barley sufficient for one 
man for one meal. If the landlord is also a forest 
contractor he will use his tenants' labour by veth 
for working his coupes. 9 

The system of debt-bondage had reduced the 
aborigines to a state of servitude in which they 
work for third parties for a bare subsistence. In 
Hyderabad, the aborigines have been forced to 
work 10 days in every year in teak-plantations and 
to bring with them their own ploughs and bul- 
locks, and they are not paid for this work. 3 

In M. P. also in localities vestiges of forced 
labour are still encountered. The workers supply 

18 This practice exists in many parts of rural India and 
is known under different names such as the Harwahi system 
in U. P., and certain parts of Bihar and M. P-, Kamiauti in 
other parts of Bihar ; Gothi in Orissa and certain parts of 
Madras ; Veth in some parts of Madras ; Hali in Gujarat ; 
Panniyal in Tamiland, Gassigully in Andrfra ; Bhagia in 
Hyderabad ; Jeetham in Karnatak ; Barsalia and Shalkari 
in M. P. ; Haliyas and Choras in Kumaon; Chakarin Oriss^ 
Dublas and Kolis in Bombay (see my Agricultural 
Problems of India, 1953, p. 169.) 

19 Quoted by K. G. Siwaswamy in Serf -Labour Among 
the Aboriginals, in Indian Journal of Social Work, p. 317. 

80 C. F. Haimendarf, Tribal Hyderabad, 1945. 



in interior villages free labour, services and articles 
in demand by landholders. Straws for cattle, and 
storing grains, vegetables for festivals and fruits, 
timber, fuel, free bullock cart service for Dewali 
and other festivals are common articles and services 
supplied to the landholders by labourers. 31 If 
they take loans it is often granted at a very high 
rate of interest from 25 to 50 per cent. The small 
loan in a year accumulates like a snowball which, 
being Prepayable, ties the tenant to the money- 
lender. Sometimes the servant is transferred to 
another landlord who repays the loan to the pre- 
vious landholders. 32 Forest contractors illegally 
collect fees from the aborigines for use of fruits 
and flowers of forest trees ; when they combine 
shop -keeping the aboriginal slaves supply valuable 
produce to contractors in exchange for trinkets... 
There are terrible sanctions, fear of which makes 
the aboriginals render forced service such as carry- 
ing loads free or at nominal prices. 33 Tn Bihar the 
Kanias are bound servants of their masters ; in 
return for a loan received they bind them to per- 
form whatever menial services are required of 
them in lieu of the interest due on the loan. In 
Santhal Parganas and Singhbhum, aboriginals are 
asked to maintain roads and buildings by their 
labour and released from the obligations of paying 
local taxes. 34 

31 K. G. Siwaswamy, Forced Labour in Agriculture, in 
Asian Labour Quarterly 1949, pp. 45-46. 

88 Ibid., p. 50. 

M Ibid., P . 47 . 

34 A. V. Thakkar, The Problems of Aboriginals in India, 

pp. 11-12. 


Even the local government officials in various 
parts of the country were in habits, until recently, 
of exacting services and compulsory labour from 
tribes under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1934. 
"Low paid officials generally abuse their powers 
and take advantage of these restrictions to exact 
forced labour from numberless victims/' 35 

86 V. Raghaviah, The Problem of Criminal Tribes, 1949, 
pp. 7-8, 


As a rule, the living standard of the aboriginal 
population is extremely low. In many parts they 
stagnate in conditions of economic destitution and 
pronounced cultural and technical backwardness, 
which severely limit their production and consump- 
tion capacity. This is due to the primitive condi- 
tions in which they are obliged to earn their living, 
to the lack of educational stimuli and opportuni- 
ties and to the almost complete absence, in some 
parts, of welfare services and measures for social 
and labour protection. 

In this note we shall be dealing with the pro- 
blems like the dietaries, the housing conditions, 
health, and literacy, etc. 

i. Dietaries 

Studies undertaken in India and other parts of 
the world reveal several important facts about the 
dietary habits of the aboriginal peoples, but the 
actual intake of calories, proteins, minerals and 
vitamins by them is not known. Nevertheless the 
data disclosed provide valuable information 
regarding the wide variations in diets of the primi- 
tive peoples. 

Of all the primitive tribes of the world, the 
Eskimos are prevailingly carnivorous, living mainly 
on the marine animals like the seal, polar bear, 
whale, walrus, Arctic hare and eggs of Arctic birds. 


Their diet is not complete and lacks starchy food. 
But the Eskimos are strong, vigorous and have 
unlimited energy. The Ainus of Japanese island, 
Yezo, are also carnivorous. They are hunters and 
eat the flesh of fox, wolf, horse, the fowl and some 
varieties of fishes in abundance. They also depend 
on a few vegetables, herbs and edible roots. While 
the Hunzas of the Upper valleys of the Karakoram 
live entirely on fruits and agricultural produce 
and yet possess better endurance and superior 
physical strength. Their diet is rich and nutritive 
consisting of wheat, barley, milk, ghee, butter- 
milk, pulses, millets, beans, potatoes, green vegeta- 
bles and fruits like apricots, mulberries, etc. Occa- 
sionally they take meat and drink home-made wine 
of good grapes. In the words of Sir Robert Mc- 
Carrison, "These people are unsurpassed by the 
Indian race in perfection of physique, they are 
long-lived, vigorous in youth and age, capable of 
great endurance and enjoy a remarkable freedom 
from disease in general. Their diets are unsophis- 
ticated foods of nature and the healthiest diets of 
mankind." 1 The Bakitara tribe living in Banyoro, 
north-west of Victoria Nyaza and the Todas of 
Nilgiris are prevailingly lactovegetarians. 

At this stage it may be pointed out that there 
appears to be no uniformity in the type of food 
taken by the different tribes but there seems to be 
some relation in the type of food consumed by 

1 Quoted by P. N. Sengupta, The Dietaries of the Primi- 
tive Tribes of India, in March of India, Vol. VI. No. 2., 
1953, p. 60. 


them and the climatic conditions of their environ- 
ments. Herbivorous tribes appear to be the most 
numerous, the carnivorous and the omnivorous 
coming next and the lactivorous last. 2 But in the 
absence of any systematic investigations and the 
availability of complete data, it is possible to 
know only the variations in the actual consump- 
tion of food groups and not the actual intake of 
calories, proteins, minerals like calcium, phos- 
phorus and iron. 

Like the diets of the primitive tribes in other 
parts of the world, the diet of the aborigines in 
India varies according to the stage of their deve- 
lopment and the areas they inhabit. Some of the 
tribes that rank as the most primitive live on forest 
products such as tubers, fruits and roots and such 
fish and animals as they can catch. In general 
these tribes are omnivorous and there are few 
limits to what they will accept as food. Others at 
a higher level of development eat beef and venison 
and produce their food by more or less permanent 
cultivation or jhum cultivation. 3 

The Anthropological Department of the 
Government of India has for some time past un- 
dertaken extensive systematic investigations on the 
dietaries, nutrition and adequacy of food, the 
general cause of various ailments, the birth and 

1 F. JN. bcngupta, Dietaries of the Primitive Tribes, 
in The Adiavisis> 1955, p- 9* 

3 A. Aiyappan, Report on the Socio- Economic Conditions 
of the Aboriginal Tribes in the Province of Madras, 1948. P< 


death rates, the expectation of life, the rate of 
growth among children, basal metabolism, etc., 
among the primitive tribes of India, first in the 
Abor hills on the N. E. Frontier of India and 
then in southern India in Travancore hills. As a 
result of these surveys much useful information is 
now available about the dietaries of these people 
and their effects on the constitution of the tribes. 

Starting from south India we find that the 
staple food of the Paliyan consists of roots (the 
wild yam), honey and flesh of animals and birds. 
They also eat cumbu and cholum. They do not 
eat beef. They obtain game by means of traps. 4 

The food of the Chenchu consists briefly of 
roots (gaddalu) and berries (pandulu) herbs and 
fungi are also eaten; tamarind fruits are eaten 
mixed with ashes obtained by burning the bark of 
the same tree; mahua flower is eaten boiled. No 
salt is added to the food. They eat animal flesh 
when available, the skin is also eaten after the hair 
has been singed and the intestines after cleaning. 5 

The Kadar like "all sorts of game and fish, but 
the bison and the bear are two animals which no 
Kadar will touch, living or dead. They are very 
fond of honey. " 6 

Kodo, Kutki, Pej (gruel) and vegetables and 
tender leaves of trees, particularly * pipal ' and 

4 R. Faulkes, A Note on the Paliyans of the Madura 
District in Census of India, 1951, Vol. I, Pt. III. B, p. 196. 

5 G. A. Khan, The Chenchu* in IbtJ., p* 210. 

6 K. G, Mcnon, The Kadar of Cochin, in Census of India, 
Op. Cit., p. 213. 


toots form the diet of Gonds. They would not 
spare any animal for the sake of flesh, even snakes 
and crocodiles would be their favourite dish. 
They love liquor brewnfrom mahua flowers. 7 

Murias also take rice at night and Pej prepared 
of broken rice pieces or millets usually in the day 
time. They are non-vegetarians but not beef- 
eaters. 8 

The Todas of the Nilgiris take mainly milk, 
ghee, buttermilk, curd, some cereal grains, sugar, 
herbs and fruits. In the olden times they lived 
only on herbs, fruits, honey and milk products. 9 

Rice and nagali are the staple food of the 
Warlis. They eat leafy vegetables and fish, if 
available. They also eat dry fish, fowls and flesh 
of such wild animals like boar, hare and deer. 
When they do not get normal food they eat bitter 
kands (big round roots grown below the soil) from 
the jungle, after boiling them as far as over 
12 hours. 10 

The Katkaris of Bombay province eat rice> 
nagali, river fish, field crabs and rats. Occasionally 
they eat fish. 

7 K. A. Gafoor, Tribal Welfare in Hyderabad, 1952, 
p. 1 6. 

8 S. R. Dass, Bhatras and Murias, in Tribes of India ; 
Pt. I., 1950, p. 50. 

P. N. Sengupta, Op Cit. 9 p. 90. 
10 K. J. Save, Warlis and Katkaris, IbiJ., Pt. I., p. 165-67. 


The food taken by the Bhils is very coarse and 
poor but nutritious. It consists chiefly of maize, 
kuri, kodra, mal. 11 They also take meat of goat 
and sheep and are habituated to drink mahua-malt 
extracted from the flower of widely grown mahua 
tree in the neighbouring areas of Raj as than, 
Bombay and M. B. Rice is taken on festivals. 

The Baigas of Vindhya Pradesh are addicted to 
liquor, their main diet is a coarse type of rice 
(Kodo) and jowar, pigs and hens ar<? freely 
used. 12 

One subdivision of Oraons is considered purer 
than the rest because it refuses to eat rats and 
lizards, a part of the daily diets of the others. x 3 

In U. P. maize and various kinds of millets 
constitute the basic food of the Korwas, the 
Kharwars, the Ghasi and Chero. But rice is a 
luxury. The Korwa are among the only people 
who will eat bear, pig, fowls, ox, buffalo, and 
kinds of beer while Ghasi ate fond of pork and 

The Panika will eat anything except the flesh 
of cows and buffaloes, horses, crocodiles, snakes 
and lizards, while the Buia eat both beef and 
crocodile. The Kharwars, having become Hinduis- 
ed, refuse fowls and pork. 14 

i* B. S. Mehta, The Bhils & Mecnas, in Tribes of 
India, Pt. I., p. 211. 

' 2 A. B. Lall, Baigas, Ibid., p. 236. 

13 W. H. Gilbert, Peoples of India, p. 75-81. 

i* D. N. Majumdar, The Fortunes of Primitive Tribes^ 


The Raji of Askot in the Himalayas live mainly 
on tubers and other natural vegetable foods, sup- 
plemented by rice and millet raised in forest clear- 
ings, and fish, birds, and certain wild animals. 
They are generally omnivorous. 15 

The Abors of Assam practise jhum and there- 
fore, eat cereals, millets, chillies, vegetables like 
Arvis, yams, pumpkins, brinjals, ginger, onions 
and stems and flowers of some wild plantain trees. 
Leaves of wild plants are also taken by them in 
large quantities. Pigs and chickens, fish and deer, 
wild boar, squirrels, wild cats and birds supply 
them with meat. Apong (slightly fermented be- 
verage) is very common among them. They do 
not know how to ue milk as food. Sugar and 
jaggery are not available to them. 10 

The diet of the Urali and Kanikkar tribes of 
Travancore hills is very inadequate. They live 
mainly on tapioca, small quantities of rice, some 
wild roots and yams. Meat, fish, milk and milk 
products do not form part of their diet. They 
have no fermented or intoxicating native bever- 
age. 17 

Shri Sengupta enables us to compare the aver- 
age daily diet of various food groups in ozs. 

15 S. D. Pant, Social Economy of the Himalayas, pp. 

lf P. N. Sengupta, Op. Cit. y pp. 6i-6z 
17 Sengupta, Op. CV/., p. 62 


among the non-tribal Indians, the Abors, and the 
Uralis in the following table : x 8 

Average Daily Intake of Various Food Groups (in ounces) 



Other cereals 
Millets and Pulses 
Green leafy vegetables 
Other vegetables 
Flesh foods 
Fats and oils 
Milk, etc. 

Sugar- jaggery 
JL*rink (pints) 





Abors Uralis 

for non-Tri- 
bal Indians 



14-0 ( 






1 8 
























Nutritive Value of Food consumed per day 



Abets Uralis 

Protein (gm) 
Fat (gm) 

Carbohydrates (gm) 
Calcium (gm) 
Phosphorus (gm) 
Iron (mgm) 
Vitamin A-(I U) 
Thiamine (mgm) 
Riboflavin (mgm) 
Niaxin (mgm) 
Vitamin C (mgm) 



































for non-tribal 











An analysis of these tables shows that according 
to calories, proteins, minerals and vitamins, etc., 
intake the Abors get 16 per cent more calories and 
the Uralis about 9 per cent less than the average 

18 Sengupta, Op. Of., p. 63. 


Indian. The consumption of proteins is about 
17 per cent more among the Abors and about 67 
per cent less among the Uralis than what the 
Indians get. The calcium intake is about 70 per 
cent more in the case of Abors and 50 per cent 
less in the case of Uralis than intake among the 
Indians. As regards Vitamin A the Abors and 
Uralis are respectively getting 33 per cent more 
and 21 per cent less than what the average Indian 

It may be well remarked that in spite of the 
wholesome nature of the diet of the two abori- 
ginal tribes, it suffers from several defects. For 
instance, the calory intake is not in accordance 
with the climate, body size and work; animal 
protein of high biological value is inadequate, and 
calcium is supplied by the green leafy vegetables, 
the maximum value of which may not be absorbed 
in the system. The nutritive value of food con- 
sumed by other tribes is not available. 

2. Health 

The health of the aborigines in India is stated 
to be on the whole above the average of that 
of the people inhabiting the plains, unless intensive 
culture-contact, through coolie labour or other 
agencies, has set in. Where the aboriginal still 
lives on forest produce or shifting cultivation, 
his general level of health is better than that of 
the plains-man, mainly because malnutrition is 
less pronounced. The same is reported of skin 
a nd respiratory diseases. Abandonment of their 
original mixed diet in favour of rice diet has 


caused dysentery and cholera to spread. Scabies, 
ringworm, skin and veneral diseases are now 
more frequently found. Wound and fractures, 
because of lack of proper treatment are frequent 
causes of death or permanent mutilation. 

In Assam, closer contact with civilization has 
brought about an increase in diseases. "Not only 
have some specific diseases such as venereal diseases 
and T. B., been introduced but epidemics spread 
more quickly." 19 In mining areas of Bihar and 
Orissa, the malaria incidence has been brought 
down to the minimum so that the general health of 
the people is satisfactory. 20 In Bombay and south- 
eastern Aravalli hills the general health of the abori- 
ginal is poor. The most common diseases being 
malaria, scurvy, guinea-worm, and others resulting 
from unhealthy climate, use of drinking water 
from the step-wells and malnutrition. Treatment 
by witch-doctors and magic are most frequently 
resorted to by the aborigines. Among the 
Abors the high incidence of goitre is found 
both among the males and the females, the main 
cause of this is the deficiency of iodine which 
perhaps can be explained because of the distance 
from the sea. There is no goitre among the 
Uralis and Kanikkars of Travancore. 21 

In the south malnutrition has caused ravages 
among the tribes as a result principally of change 

w J. P. Mills, Census of India, 1931, Vol. I., Pt. III. B. 
p. 147 

10 I. L. O. Indigenous People, 1954, p. 149 
21 Sengupta, Op. Cit., p. 97 


from wholesome forest produce to rice diet, 
accompanied by arrack and opium introduced by 
forest contractors. Mainly through contacts with 
outsiders, the Kaddars suffer from cholera, small- 
pox, diabetes and albuminaria. 22 The Koya also 
suffer (together with the Reddi and the other 
tribes of the south) from yaws. 23 More particularly 
in Travancore, it is stated that leprosy is now 
found among the Kanikkars, the Muduvan, and 
the Vishawan, elephantiasis among the Kanikkars; 
syphilis among the Paliyan; and smallpox among 
the Muduvan, the Mannan and others. All hill 
tribes are subject to malaria to which many fall 
victim. 24 

Scientific medical care both preventive and 
curative is inadequate in the majority of the areas 
inhabited by aboriginals. For economic reasons a 
very high percentage of doctors, pharmacists, 
nurses and social workers is concentrated in the 
capital cities and urban centres, at great distances 
from areas with a large tribal population. The 
situation is aggravated by the survival among 
tribals of empirical practices of mythical or reli- 
gious origin, in matters of food, illness, child- 
bearing and weaning, and by illiteracy of an 
extremely high proportion of the tribal people. 

Modern medicines have not found favour with 
these people because of the superstition and lack 

21 A, Aiyappan, Op. C//., p. 63 

* K. G. Menon, Census of India, 1931, Vol. I. Pt. III. B, 
p. 215 

24 IHJ. 9 p. 237-8. 


of faith in them. They have their own medicine- 
men, their own methods of diagnosis and cure 
and diseases are generally attributed to the work 
of evil spirits. So that whenever diseases break 
out these medicine-men are called for. This 
attitude of the tribal people can be changed if not 
only the administrators but also the doctors and 
medical practitioners approach these people in a 
spirit of love, without any desire to impose them- 
selves on them. By patience, skill and sheer 
friendliness, the barriers can be broken down and 
then those who never have known relief from pain 
and fever will come to them with gratitude and 
hope. Indigenous systems of medicine must be 
explored and simple natural remedies used when- 
ever possible. In this way, the healing touch of 
science will reach the tribes, naturally and in- 

3. Literacy 

In view of the low percentage of literacy for 
the country as a whole only 16.6% (for males, 
24.9% and for females, 7.9%, in 1951)11" is not 
surprising that nearly whole "of the tribal people 
are illiterate. According to 1931 census figures of 
7,611,803 persons belonging to tribal group, 
7,567,452 were illiterate, i.e. only 0.58% were 
literate. 25 Although 1951 census figures for 
literacy among the tribals is not available, there 
is no reason to believe that there has been any 
change in the situation. Not to say of middle, , 

15 Census of India 1931, Vol. I., Pt. II., p. 427 


































high school and college education even the pri- 
mary education is negligible among the aborigines. 
The following table indicates the literacy per 
1,000 aged 5 and over in tribals as compared with 
other important religious groups in the country 
since 1901 to 193 1. 26 

'Literacy per 1,000 aged / and over 









Taking the figures for 1921 and 1931 by com- 
munities, it appears that whilst other communities, 
including the tribals, have shown progress there 
had been a decline in the literacy of the Parsi and 
Christian communities. According to the Census 
report it had been due to economic depression in 
the case of the former and due to the inclusion of 
illiterate converts coming largely from the tribals 
and lower Hindu-castes in the case of the latter. 

The low figures of literacy among the tribes 
is to be expected for the following reasons: 

i. Not only are there few schools in villages 
inhabited by the aborigines but the people cannot 

26 Census of India y 1901, Vol. I. Pt. I., p. 177; Ibid for 
1911, p. 311; India for 1921, p. 1 86. and Ibid for 1931, p. 
329. Later figures are not available. 


afford or do not wish to send their children to 
urban or rural schools situated far from their 

2. Because of inaccessibility of the indigenous 
areas, very few teachers are available who may 
be willing to work among the aborigines or to 
stay for a reasonable period of time in the areas 
unsuited to their taste and devoid of all facilities 
of modern life, to which our present youths are 
usually accustomed. 

3 . There is also the difficulty of the language. 
There are not enough people who know tribal 

4. The aborigines themselves do not take the 
advantage of the facilities offered, the schools 
being for the most part situated in or near places 
not easily accessible to them.* 7 

For some time past, indigenous education has 
made considerable strides in Assam, though this 
system does not result in literacy as it is known in 
the West. 28 Such education as has been imparted 
to the Nagas has not been an unmixed blessing 
for there is a surplus of half-educated youths, 
unwilling to go back to the village life of their 
fathers and looking in vain for employment which 
they consider suitable for their talents. 39 The 

* 7 A. V. Thakkar, The Problem of Aborigines in India, 
p. 15-17. 

88 N. K. Rustomji, Glimpses of Tribal Life in North East 
Frontiers in Amrit Ba%ar Patrika, Puja Number, 1950, p. 

89 J. P. Mills, Op. Cit., p. 147-48. 


Lushais also dislike manual labour, thus increasing 
the number of unemployed and discontented 
youths. 80 So also literacy among the Kaddars has 
tended to make them dissatisfied and unfit both 
for their own mode of living and for any other. 
In Trayancore too, education has undermined 
their tribal ways and encouraged an attitude of 
contempt towards manual labour. 

A special syllabus should be drawn up for the 
primary stages incorporating activities familiar to 
the tribal folk, and later it should incorporate 
lessons bearing on the culture of their neighbours. 
The medium of instruction must naturally be the 
mother-tongue, the tribal language spoken at 
home. The regional language should have its 
place as a subject of study in the upper forms. 
Regarding the script to be adopted the solution 
is not so easy. The tribal people should adopt the 
script of the regional language of the State, if the 
State has a single script. A few new phonemes, 
to represent sounds peculiar to the tribal language 
should, however, be added. These should be 
drawn up bearing in mind the need of new 
phonemes for the various tribal languages, so 
that no symbol should have more than one sound, 
nor should the same sound be indicated by more 
than one symbol in different areas. 
4. Housing Conditions 

The aboriginal dwelling is generally always 
damp, insufficiently ventilated, overcrowded and 

* C. H. Hclmc in Census of India, 1931, Vol.1.. Pt. 
III. B., p. 


devoid of most rudimentary sanitary facilities, 
all of which factors strongly favour the spread 
of respiratory and digestive diseases, malaria, etc. 
In fact, aboriginal dwellings in trees are found 
in the continuous belt, from south India (especially 
among the Kanikkar and Mandavar in the extreme 
south) and sometimes among the Irulas of the 
eastern Nilgiri hills, to Assam (among Garo) 
and various parts of Indo-China as far as the Miao 
country on the Chinese frontier. 51 The houses 
are usually mere huts made of forest saplings and 
branches and covered with leaf thatching. The 
floor is sometimes raised by dumping earth and 
beating it down into a platform. 82 

In Travancore the Kanikkar, the Mannam, 
Muduvan and Paliyan do not raise floors of their 
huts above ground level and hence drainage and 
sanitation are defective. In Madras, the pastoral 
Toda of the Nilgiris have a type of dwelling 
peculiar to them. It is rectangular, built of wood 
and thatch, with an ogival roof. The Paniyans 
live in poorly constructed low huts built of bam- 
boo and leaves. A number of huts form a hamlet. 
The houses of Lyngngum Khasi in central Assam 
are long rectangular pile dwellings, raised a little 
above the ground at entrance which faces the 
inner square of the village. 

81 G. Montandon, quoted in I. L. O.'s, Indigenous 
People, $. 119 

82 P. C Menon, KaJars of Cochin, in Census cf India, 
VoLL, Pt. III. B., p. 213. 


The houses of the Bhils living in the hilly 
country is different from those of the plains. In 
the plains they live in villages close together, while 
in the hilly country the living is of the scattered 
type. The house about 10 'x 8 1 has low roofs, 
scarcely 6' high, mostly thatched and in some cases 
tiled, supported by four mud walls with no 
window, hole or aperture of any kind for light or 
air protected by a door of bamboo matting. 

The size of the Kharia settlements differs accord- 
ing to their cultural stage. The hill fCharias live 
in groups of five to ten families in huts scattered 
over the hillside at distances of hundred yards or 
more, but the more advanced Dhelki Kharias 
live in regular villages with sacred groves, dancing 
arenas and the village burial-ground where the 
bones of the deceased relatives are ceremonially 
interred at intervals. The Christian Kharia vil- 
lages are neat and more compact, with the houses 
more substantially built. The hill Kharias and also 
the Dhelkis build dormitories where the bachelors 
and the maidens live separate but the Christian 
villages have abandoned the practice. 

Raw meat is not eaten by the Kharias and beef 
is unpopular with all sections of the tribe. Salt is 
very popular with them and they take plenty of 
it with their food. Meat is salted and dried, vege- 
tables are boiled with salt, and the advanced 
section of the Kharias have learnt to prepare curry 
with vegetables, onion, powdered turmeric, pulses 
and meat salted to taste. This preference for salt 
may lead to some physiological change and such 


aspects of nutrition in primitive society require 
careful investigation. The Kharias have experi- 
mented with all kinds of leaves and tubers as food 
and have developed a taste for a large number of 
leaves and flowers. 

The Kuki villages consist of tiny settlements 
in the jungles, of four to five huts, built of 
bamboo and cane. The Kukis are 'by temperament 
nomadic/ The peculiar vagabond strain if not 
controlled leads to villages splitting into hamlets 
and the latter subdividing till, as in the Manipur 
hills, we find single houses in the midst of 
dense jungle several miles from the next habi- 
tation. In the jungle the nomad Kuki builds 
lightly and a habitation of sorts can be erected in 
a few hours with bamboo mats as walls and with 
leaves for the thatch to keep out the rain. Where 
the Kukis live a settled life, they construct large 
solidly built houses, 50 to 60 ft. long, 15 to 20 ft 
wide and 7 to 10 ft. high. The houses are built 
on long bamboo poles, the lower halves of which 
when covered up provide accommodation for 
cattle and pigs. Each house has a few bamboo 
cages, kept on either side of the entrance, in which 
fowl and pigeons are kept. 


Sex Distribution 

Apart from the general disparity of sexes in the 
country, there is found a great inequality of sexes 
between different socio-economic groups too. 
Among the major communities of India, the scar- 
city of females is the largest. In 1931, the Sikhs 
had only 78 females for every 100 males as against 
95 females in the case of Hindus and Christians ; 
90 in Muslims and 94 in Jains and Parsis. The 
tribals had slight excess of females. In 1951, the 
position was something like this : there were 84 
females among the Sikhs, 94 among the Hindus, 
99 among the Christians, 92 among the Jains, 98 
among the Parsis, 94 among the Muslims and 
95 among the Tribals per 100 males. The follow- 
ing table gives the sex distribution of population 
in the important religious groups since 1891 i 1 
Females per 1,000 Males 
































N. A. 






N. A. 

N. A. 





N. A. 











1 Census of India, ion; ioji tad Census of lodia 1951* 
Vol. 1, Pt, L A. 


It will be observed that in comparison to othet 
communities Tribals have, except Christians, Jains 
and Parsis, a higher number of females per 1,000 
males, this is because they have generally late 
marriages, and hence the early years of greater 
fertility are over by the time marriage is con- 


Most of our data about the primitive tribes 
are of a perfunctory nature. The statistical value 
of the accounts given by the travellers, missiona- 
ries, and the anthropologists are very dubious. 
The data regarding the age of menarche among 
the tribal people are even more so. Of course, 
some data have been collected by eminent wor- 
kers in the field like those of Dr. Elwin and Dr. 
Majumdar. According to Dr. Elwin, the most 
likely age for the menarche among the tribal 
people of Madhya Pradesh is between 12 and 15. 
Dr. Majumdar examined 367 girls, all of them in 
their teens, of seven tribes of northern India, of 
which only the Hos, the Korwas, and the Tharus 
provided most reliable data. Out of the total 
number, only 12 had their first menstruation below 
10 years, 97 had it between 10 12, ; 191 between 
12 14 ; 56 between 14 16 and n at 16 and 
above. Calculated on the percentage basis, 3-3% 
of the cases were below 10 years ; 26-4% between 
10 and 12 years ; 52% were between 12 and 14 
years ; and 15*3% between 14*16 years ; and only 
3% above 16 and over. Thus it will be observed 
that in 78*40% of the cases the ages of menarche 


among the tribal girls were between 12 and 14 
compared with 92-0% among the girls of all races 
in India. Secondly, menstruation appears at early 
age among the Mongoloid tribes the Garos, the 
Kukis, and the Tharus which distinguishes them 
from the Austroloid or pre-Dravidian tribes like 
the Hos, Mundas, and others. 2 

As compared to the Tribals, 80 per cent of the 
Indian girls (according to the Age of Consent 
Committee) get their menstruation between 12 and 
15 years. J. Robinson found 12 years 4 months 
as average age for menarche in Hindu girls of 
Calcutta ; 1 3 years 2 months in Madras ; and 1 3 
years 3 months in Bombay. In cool climate the 
period sets in at a bit higher age. Kreiger observes 
that the average age for menstruation in Christiana 
is 1 6 years 9 months 25 days ; it is 15 years 7 
months 25 days in Berlin ; 15 years i month 14 
days in London ; and 14 years 5 months 29 days in 
Lyons ; 13 years, n months n days in Marseilles; 
10 years, o months, o days in Sierra Leone and 
12 years, o months, o days in Calcutta. 3 

Between menstruation and motherhood there 

1 D. N. Majumdar, Matrix of Indian Culture, p. 78-80. 

8 Cart Saunders, World Population Problem, p. 91. 

It is interesting to note that some authors like Carr 
Saunders are of the opinion that, there is no close or definite 
connection between climate and menstruation ; but others 
like Engelmann believes that there is some connection. In 
.support of his views he gives the menstruation average age 
as 12.9 years for the Tropics; 15*5 years for the Tem- 
perate and i6'5 yrs. for the cold zone. 


is a longer gap among the tribal women than is 
noticed among others. Marriage is usually late 
but practised almost universally in the tribal 
society, the only exception being the Hos of 
Kolhan. From the Census statistics, 1931, we 
find that there were 687 wives per 1,000 females 
between the ages of 1 5 to 20, as compared with 
564 among the Christians, 909 among the Hindus, 
and similar number among the Muslims. The 
following table gives marital status by religion,, 
in percentages, for India in 1931 : 4 

Marital Status of Women aged ij-}9 by Religion 
(In Percentages) 










Thus it will be seen that all the religious 
groups sharply differ in marital status. 

Child marriage is practically absent among the 
tribes, though of late many tribes have introduced 
child marriage under the influence of Hindu cul- 
ture. In Chota Nagpur the more well-to-do 

4 Census of India , 1931. Later figures not available. 





























families of Santhals, Mundas and the Oraons have 
come into close contact with the Hindus. Among 
them the age of marriage for girls has come down 
to even 9 or 10 and for the boys to 12 or 13. The 
same is the case with the Bhils of Gujrat and 
Nimar division in M. P. But among the Nagas 
and Kukis of Assam, girls marry between the ages 
of 15 to 20 and the boys between the age of 18 
and 25, Some tribes like the Hos and the Mundas 
of Chota Nagpur marry their girls pretty late. The 
high bride price necessary for marriage makes it 
difficult for the young man to marry and marriage 
is consequently postponed till late in life. Girls 
seldom marry before 18 and 20 and men seldom 
below 25 or even 30. In other tribes too in 
Northern India, the average age of girls does not 
fall below 15 or go above 20. 

The groom is usually older than the bride 
in the tribal areas but the opposite is not unknown 
in Assam, e.g. among the Purum Kukis. Usually 
the difference in age between the husband and 
wife is never below 1 5 . Many of the cases of rape, 
abduction, elopement and widowhood are to 
be traced to this disparity in the ages between 
husband and the wife. More often than not, a 
man is married at the age of 35 to a girl of 15, so 
^that when he is 50 the girl is 30. The psycho- 
sexual life of a woman demands her normal sexual 
life to continue while the husband may feel it 
otherwise. This great difference in age between 
husband and wife reacts adversely on the fertility 
rf the wife. 


Pre-martial and Extra-martial Sex Relations 

There is considerable opportunity for ^ the 
satisfaction of the sex-impulses outside marriage 
among the tribals of India. Pre-marital sexual 
chastity is not very rigidly insisted upon in a large 
number of tribes. Among the Muria Gonds of 
Bastar, according to Dr. Elwin, bachelors and 
maidens of a village pass the night in a common 
house where they pair off according to their choice. 
The mates are changed occasionally or regularly. 
This continues till they are married and leave the 
organisation. Marriage between the mates of the 
Ghotul (Bachelor's House) is very rare. 6 Each 
Oraon bachelor had a sweetheart in the spinster's 
house half a century ago. If a girl refused to 
accept a lover, she was 'cut* off by the older girls 
who refused to dance with her till she accepted a 
paramour. The Bachelor's House organisation 
has now gone underground and it is difficult to 
say what the present conditions are. 7 Among the 
Naga tribes also we find similar pre-nuptial laxity. 
"The Aos," writes Dr. Hutton, "are notorious for 
the unchastity of their women... From a tender age 
girls are free to do as they like before marriage, 
and are thus with difficulty prevented from doing 
so afterwards. The unmarried girls sleep in small 
houses, built for the purpose, in twos or threes, 
and the unmarried men sleep with them/' 8 Only 
adult marriage is in vogue among the Ao Nagas, 
according to Smith, "but prior to wedlock 

6 Elwin, The Marias and Their Gbotul, p. 333. 

7 S. K. Roy, Tht Oraons> pp. 146-7* 

* Dr. J. Hutton, The Angami Nagas, p. 574. 


the girls are allowed great freedom. It is said that 
Naga brides who are entitled to wear the "orange 
blossom of virginity" on the wedding day are 
very rare. The girls sleep by twos or threes in 
separate houses or in the houses of widows, where 
they are visited nightly by their lovers." 9 Girls 
among the Angami Nagas consider short hair, the 
symbol of virginity, to be a disgrace and are very 
anxious to become entitled to wear it long. 1 

Post-marital laxity is also not unknown among 
the tribes of other parts. During the more 
important festivals, such as the Magh Parab among 
the Hos and the Khaddi among the Oraon men 
and women freely indulge in sex-relations. It may, 
therefore, safely be said that there is considerable 
opportunity for the satisfaction of sex-desires out- 
side the marital tie among at least some of the 
tribals of India, yet we find that marriage is uni- 
versal among them. It may, hence, be concluded 
that sex-activity is not the main objective of 
marriage. Economic co-operation seems to be the 
basis for marital union, though emotional inter- 
stimulation and procreation of children as motives 
of marriage also exist. 

Among the Konyak Naga a girl continues her 
amours even after her marriage. It is only w r hen 
a child is born to her that she moves to her 
husband's household, it being known that the 
child if it is not his does not cause any incon- 

~* W. C. Smith, The Ao Nagas Tribe of Ass*m, p. 57- 

10 Compare Westermarck, The Origin and Develop- 
ment of Moral Ideas > Vol. II, p. 423. 


Playfair says of the Garos, "On the occasion of 
certain festivals it is an uneven law that young 
girls and men sleep together after the entertain- 
ment is over, and the partnership of one night is 
expected to precede a life-long union. It is not 
absolutely necessary that they should thereafter 
live as husband and wife, and no obloquy is 
incurred by the girl on account of her lapse from 
the path of virtue, unless she is found later to be 
an expectant mother."* 

In middle India, pre-marital liaisons are over- 
looked unless of course they lead to pregnancy, 
which is generally regarded as shameful for the 
girPs parents, even if the pregnancy be caused 
by a suitor-servant's attention. The girl is asked 
to name the child's father and he is forced to 
marry her. No, or only reduced bride price 
may be paid when such girls are married off. 

Among some tribes, like the Muria, adolescent 
life is one of preparation for all the activities of 
adult; and in their dormitories grown-up girls are 
often found to train younger boys in the art of 
love and sex-life. 

The Tharu men are so much under the thumbs 
of their beautiful wives that they take no offence 
at the latter 's lax sex morals. The Khasa have 
developed a double standard of morality whereby 
a woman as a wife (ranti) has to observe a strict 
sex-moral code, but as a daughter (dhyanti) has 
free scope to have as many liaisons and amours as 

*Playfair, The Garos, 1909, p. 68. 


she likes. In view of this the Khasa women never 
completely cut off themselves from their parent's 

Pre-marital sex-laxity is also observable in other 
tribes of the world. Among the Port Barrow 
Eskimos, according to Murdoch, "promiscuous 
sexual intercourse between married and unmarried 
people, or even among the children, appears to be 
looked upon merely as a matter for amusement." 1 * 
Of the Indians of the North-west, U. S. A., Gibbs 
writes, "Cohabitation of unmarried females among 
their own people brings no disgrace if unaccom- 
panied by chUd-b:rth...This commences at a very 
early age, perhaps ten or twelve years." 1 a Speak- 
ing of the Columbian Indians, Bancroft says, '* 
"Unmarried women have not die slighest idea of 
chastity and freely bestow their favours in return 
for a kindness or for a very small consideration 
in property paid to themselves or parents. 1S " 

Powers thinks, "There is scarcely an attribute 
known as virtue or chastity in either sex before 
marriage among the Californian Indians/' 14 Writ- 
ing of conditions in Africa, Johnston says, "As 
regards the little girls, over nearly the whole of 

11 Ethnological Results of the Port Barrov Expedition* 
Ninth Annual Report, 1884, p. 419. 

* Gibbs, The Tribes of Westtrn Washington and North- 
vest Oregon, Vol. I, p. 189 

** Bancroft, The Native Races of the Pacific States of 
North America, Vol. I., p. 112. 

* The Trifas of California, U. S. A. Gcog., and GeoL 
Survey, Vol. HI., p. 157. 


British Central Africa, chastity before puberty is 
an unknown condition. Before a girl is to become 
a woman it is a matter of absolute indifference^ 
what she does, and scarcely any girl remains a 
virgin after about five years of age/' 15 Weeks 
says that among the Bangala "above the age of 
five years it would be impossible to find a girl 
who was a virgin." 16 "If," writes Willoughby,, 
"there is ever a time when Bantu boys and girls 
are not familiar with sexual subjects, it must be in 
years when they have not yet become familiar with 
anything. Little effort is made to shield children 
from sexual contaminations ; but on the contrary r 
it adds spice to the elders' amusement when little 
voices try to sing these fearful songs, and small 
children ape their parents' vices. Nothing seems 
to matter till puberty is approached ; and then 
there is a sudden attempt to look after the girls." 1 7 
In regard to the people of Burma, Webb writes,, 
"Among many of the tribes there is great moral 
laxity prior to marriage. Thus among the Siyin 
and Sokte tribes of the Chins, female virtue is not 
expected, provided an unmarried girl takes the 
precautions to prevent motherhood before marri- 
age. Boys and girls sleep together without 
hindrance, and a young man openly cohabits with 
his mistress in the house of her parents. Simi- 
larly among the Kachins, young people are allowed 

16 Johnson, British Central Africa, p. 409. 

16 The Bangala of tbt Uppe* Congo, Journal of tb* Anthro- 
pological Institute, Vol. XXXIX, 1909, p. 442. 

17 Race Problem in Ne*> Africa, 1923, p. 127. 


to consort as they .please before marriage though 
the marriage prohibitions are usually observed 
even in pre-marital intercourse. Special bache- 
lors' huts are placed at the disposal of any couple 
who wish to try the experiment with each other. 
The experiments are continued indefinitely on both 
sides until a suitable match is found, and then marri- 
age ensues. It is claimed that unchastity after marri- 
age does not exist, owing to the freedom of experi- 
ment before marriage " 18 Of the people of New- 
zealand, writes Best, "that a girl would have inter- 
course with a youth before she arrived at puberty. 
At times marriage took place and was consum- 
mated at this early age." 19 "It would appear," 
says Hartland, ''that sexual intercourse before 
puberty is either recognized by a formal marriage 
or tolerated as the gratification of a natural ins- 
tinct among a great variety of people in all quar- 
ters of the globe." * 

Among a number of tribes there is a general 
sexual indulgence with the girl when she is 
initiated. Among some tribes the old men have 
priority rights during the initiation of the girl ; 
while with others the girl is subject to all the 
men who may get hold of her. Wilshire reports 
that after initiation of the girls (circumcision 
ceremony) are sexually "at the mercy of all who 

18 Census of India, 1911, Vol. IX, Burma, Pt. I., p. 148. 

w The Peopling of New Zealand, Man, Vol. XIV., 1914, 
p. 32. 

10 The Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I., p. 272. 


may get hold of them/* 21 Oldfield tells us that 
there is a sexual initiation ceremony before a female 
is considered fit for marriage among the west 
Australian tribes, and in it all the males of the 
tribe partake. 2 2 Malinowshi, speaking in general 
of chastity, says, "Before marriage the girl has to 
submit to a general sexual intercourse, and after 
it the woman becomes on many occasions the 
property of another man." 23 He points out that 
among the Trobriand Islanders pre-marital coitus 
is expected, no birth control methods are known, 
yet the women rarely bear children before they 
are married. 24 

Selection of Mates 

The selection of mates is an important affair 
even in primitive society. The rules of endogamy, 
exogamy, hypergamy, preferential mating, and 
prohibited degrees operate simultaneously and 
thereby considerably restrict the freedom of choice. 
Thus a SanthaJ has to marry within his own tribe, 
but not of his own clan. Among the Purum 
Kukis of Manipur, marriage between cross-cousins 
is preferred. 25 A Garo man has to marry his 
mother-in-law as she is the owner of that family 
property. Marriage between grandparents and 
grandchildren has also been reported from amongst 

*i Wilshire, The Aborigines of Central Asia, p. 30. 
22 Oldfield, On the Aborigines of Australia, p. *jri. 
2 Malinowshi, The Family among the Australian Abori- 
gines ', p. 105. 

" Malinowski, The Father in Primitive Psychology. 
25 T. C. Dass, The Purums, p. 241. 



the Gonds of M. P. Among the Lakhers of Lus- 
hai Hills marriage with the widowed step-mother 
and with the widow of the son is also found. 26 
In the Bhils of Bombay and Rajasthan, widow 
remarriage is commonly practised and if there is 
no one to look after her children, she takes them 
with her to the new husband. A younger brother 
can keep the widow of his elder brother but not 
vice versa. 27 

The means of acquiring a mate in tribal society 
are varied and interesting. In the primitive 
society payment is the most common way of 
securing a wife. The amount, of course, varies 
according to the economic conditions of the tribe. 
The Santhals, Hos, Mundas, Kharias, Oraons, 
Gonds, Nagas, Kukis, Bhils and others pay for 
their brides as a general rule. But even amongst 
them there are also found other means of getting 
a wife which may be discussed here briefly. 

i. Marriage by service is the only way to 
secure a bride among the Purums of Manipur. 
The prospective groom has to serve in the house 
of his bride's father for 3 years. He may be 
employed to do any work that the sons of the 
house may be required to perform. He has board 
and lodging during this period in the house of 
his prospective father-in-law. 28 This practice is 
also found among the Rangkhol Kukis, Aimols, 
Anals, and Chirus. 

26 Parry, The Lakbers, p. 294. 

t7 D. N. Majumdar, Races a*d Cultures of India, p. 145. 

w T. C Das, Op. C//., p. 242. 


2. Marriage by capture is another method 
found among many of the Chota Nagpur tribes, 
such as the Hos, Santhals, Mundas, Bhumijas and 
others. In the negotiated marriages, too, the 
father of the girl requests the groom to take the 
bride away by force. The date and time for this 
is arranged mutually ; the bride shows some resis- 
tance but ultimately allows herself to be abducted. 
Such an abduction-marriage increases the prestige 
of the bride's parents. 29 

When a boy falls in love with a girl who does 
not reciprocate his feelings or when her father is 
not agreeable to the match, the boy may force 
their hands by simply putting a vermillion mark 
on the forehead of the girl, which, constitutes 
formal marriage. Soon after this the boy leaves 
the village and remains in hiding till the matter is 
settled between the guardians of both the parties. 
This is found among Santhals, Bhumijas, Hos, 
Mundas and other tribes of Chota Nagpur and 

3 . Marriage by elopement is another method 
common among these tribes. When a boy and a 
girl love each other but their parents are not 
agreeable to the match the parties take resort to 
this means. After two or three months they come 
back to the village and are accepted as husband 
and wife. 

4. Intrusion-marriage is another peculiar 
method of securing a mate which is generally 

lf T. C. Dass, The Vbttmijas of Saraikella, p. n. 


found among the Santhals and other tribes. Here 
the initiative is taken by the bride. When a boy 
has intimate relations with a girl whom he pro- 
mises to marry but postpones the ceremony 
continually, she stealthily enters his hut one early 
morning and takes her seat in one corner. The 
mother of the boy tries to drive out the girl by 
all means. If the girl sticks to her position to 
the last, she wins her case. The neighbours 
assemble in the courtyard, and the boy is forced 
to marry. 

5 . Marriage by settlement is usually common 
among the Bhils. 

Forms of Marriage 

In India we have all the forms of marital life 
among the tribes, vi^. monogamy, polyandry 
and polygyny. In tribal India, polygamy is 
widespread. Two forms of polygamy may be 
differentiated ; polygyny is the marriage of 
one man to several women ; and polyandry the 
marriage of one woman to several men. Both 
types of marriage are referred to as polygamy in 
common parlance. Of all these monogamy is 
the most prevalent form but it is not obligatory 
for any tribe. The Khasi, the Santhal and 
Kadar are monogamous. 

Polyandry is practised among the Todas and 
Tiyan of the south and the Jaunsar Bawar of the 
Himalayas, the Kota, the Khasa and the Ladakhi 
Bota, where there is either paucity of females as 
among the Todas, or where poverty is very 


rampant as in Jaunsar Bawar so that family pro- 
perty is kept undivided by allowing a common 
wife to all the brothers in the family. The Nayar 
were polyandrous and there are many survivals 
of the custom found among them even today. 
In India, polyandry is of two types. When several 
brothers share the same wife, as among the 
Khasa and the Toda, we have 'adelphic', or 'fra- 
ternal polyandry/ In the general type, also found 
among the Toda, there need not be any close 
relationship between the husbands and the wife 
goes to spend some time with each husband So 
long as a woman lives with one of her husbands, 
the others have no claim over her. Nayar pol- 
yandry was of this type. 

Polyandry is found to lead to fewer .children 
to every woman, more male children, and a high 
incidence of sterility among women. 

Polygyny is almost universally allowed in pri- 
mitive society but rarely practised by individuals. 
Economic condition is the limiting factor. Tribal 
chiefs sometimes indulge in large number of 
wives for economic reasons like the supply of 
labour, the desire for children, the lucky inheri- 
tance of one or more wives from father or elder 
brother, and the craving for prestige, etc. Poly- 
gyny is found among the Naga tribes, the Gond, 
the Baigas, the Toda, the Lushai clans and most 
of other Proto-Austroloid tribes of Middle India. 

In every tribe marriage is brought about by 
a numoer or rituals wnicn give social recognition 
to the union. Dancing, feasting, and music 


give publicity to, and serve as evidence of, the 
union. Some of the rituals symbolise the union 
of two individuals by tying their clothes, hands 
or bodies, or mixing their blood. Instances of 
one or other of these rites are found in all the 
tribes of India. 

Divorce, Remarriage and Widowhood 

Divorce, remarriage and widowhood are also 
elements of the marital institution. Divorce is 
quite common among the tribes. Among the 
Khasis there are few middle-aged persons who 
have not changed their mates once or twice for 
reasons of adultery, barrenness and incompatibility 
of temperament. Divorce is brought about by a 
formal ceremony in most of the cases. Sakam- 
arach, which literally means leaf-tearing, is the 
regular divorce ritual of the Santhals which is per- 
formed in the presence of the whole village. The 
husband and wife tear three sal leaves each and 
upset a brass pot filled with water with invoca- 
tions to the Sun-god. The Oraons of Bihar have 
a very sensible custom which prescribes that a 
widower must marry a widow or a divorced 
woman and not a maiden. But human ingenuity 
has found a way to circumvent this healthy cus- 
tom by getting the maiden-bride married first to 
a tree and then to the human bridegroom. 30 

Among the Lushai, the dissolution of marriage 
is a much simpler affair. If a husband turns out 

M T. C. Das, Social Organisation in the Adivasis, 
p. 113. 


his wife, he must pay the balance of the bride 
price, if any, is due. However, if his wife deserts 
him or is caught in adultery, she has to arrange 
for the return of the bride price her husband 
paid for her. A second marriage between those 
once divorced is possible. Among the Kuki also 
divorce is easily obtained. 

The Gonds allow divorce freely on grounds of 
marital infidelity, carelessness in household work, 
barrenness and quarrelsome disposition. Either 
party can take the initiative in obtaining a disso- 
lution. However, the husband a wife chooses 
after divorce may have to compensate the first 
husband if the divorce has been obtained against 
his will or at his request, but on account of a 
recognized fault in, or a punishable offence of 
the wife. 

The Kharia also permit the right to demand 
dissolution to either party, on grounds of marital 
infidelity, sterility of the wife, laziness, refusal 
of the wife to live with her husband, theft and 
adjudication by the village 'panchayat' that the 
wife is a witch. It may be noted that none of 
these charges, except perhaps the first one is 
ever preferred against the husband. 

Instances of divorce can be cited from all the 
known tribes of India. 


The data about the life of the tribes are often 
quite unreliable because much of the evidence 


does not distinguish between fecundity and ferti- 
lity of the primitive people. There are two 
opposite views regarding the fecundity of the 
primitive people. One view holds that the primi- 
tive people had not only an unrestricted but a 
very high fecundity. The other places primitive 
people at the bottom of the fecundity scale. Prof. 
Carr-Saunders is of the opinion that "fecundity 
has increased with civilization/' He takes the 
Indians and the Chinese as intermediate between 
pre-historic people and the Europeans. Since the 
time of pre-historic man fecundity is said to have 
increased, this being apparent in the nature of a 
modification due to the changed conditions of 
life. He also traces this increase as biologically 
determined for the reproductive organs of man 
have undergone change, those of the more primi- 
tive races of mankind being smaller and in all 
respects less developed than those of civilized 
races. 31 In other "words, there is a connection 
between lesser development of the reproductive 
organs and a lower degree of fecundity. 3 2 This is 
a statistical conclusion for which sanction has been 
sought from Biology. It is not possible to prove 
with our present knowledge of human fecundity, 
that biological differences account for differential 

Fecundity is the capacity of a woman to bear 
children while fertility is the actual number born. 

81 Other writers claim that the reproductive organs of 
trie Negro group are unusually large. H. H. Johnson The 
Negro in the New World, 1914, p. 9. 

81 Carr-Saunders, The Population Problem, p. 97. 


According to Duncan, "Fecundity is the actual 
power of reproduction while fertility is the degree 
of production. 5 ' 33 A woman may have the power 
of giving birth to twenty children but give birth to 
only four. In that case her fecundity would be 
twenty children, but her fertility four. Under very 
exceptional circumstances, rarely enough, fertility 
of a woman corresponds with her absolute power 
of reproduction, 34 so that the number of children 
born for which statistics may be available is no 
measure of fertility, much less of fecundity. 

Human species, like all other forms of life, has 
an excessive fecundity. It is estimated that the 
normal ejaculation of a man contains 226,000,000 
spermatozoa and that the ovaries of a woman 
contain about 75,000 ova. Not more than 500 
of these ova, however, develop to maturity during 
the fertile period of a woman's life, and not more 
than 20 or 30 can possibly be used for reproduc- 
tion. One ovum matures each lunar month between 
puberty and the menopause, and for each matured 
ovum the male develops at least 850,000,000 
spermatozoa. Since only one ovum and one 
spermatozoon are needed in each reproduction we 

33 H. G. Duncan, Race and Population Problems , 1926, 
p. 258 

84 "It has been observed that civilized man has an 
excessive fecundity and abundant fertility which is constantly 
underestimated. The fecundity of man is at least two 
hundred times as great as is needed to keep up population. 
Of woman it is at least tour times as great as neeaea.' 3 
H. G. Duncan, Op. Cit, p. 272. 


gain some idea of the latent reproductive power of 
human beings. 

Ordinarily a woman can give birth to a child 
every year and a half during her reproductive 
period (extending from 15 to 45 years of age). If 
this fecund period extends from i j to 4 j years only, 
she would be able to give birth to 20 children. 
Many women have longer fecund periods, and 
some can have children at intervals of 10 months. 
Matthews Duncan estimates that a normal woman 
of civilized races, living in wedlock throughout 
her fecund period, under favourable circumstances, 
bears from 10 to 12 children. 35 In fact the 
fecundity of the human beings is very great. A 
single pair of human beings could have produced 
the present world population in 1800 years. 36 

The fertility of woman varies from tribe to 
tribe, as it does with the different species, with 
members of the same species, and often with the 
same member of the same species. Economic 
conditions are largely responsible for the difference 
in fertility between tribes. In agricultural years 
of prosperity, the number of marriages increases 
and with the couple of years the effect is manifest 
in the large incidence of birth. 

According to Dr. Majumdar the average 
number of children per family among the Hos is 
5 .16 per completed fertility, that of Oraon, 6; Kuki, 
6.5; Konds, 7.2; and Tharus, 6.5. 37 The fertility 

M M. Duncan, Fecundity, Fertility and Sterility, p. 112. 

H. G. Duncan, Op. Cit., p. 271. 

17 D. N. Majumdar, Matrix of Indian Culture* p. 87-8 g. 


of tribal women in India appears to be higher than 
that of those outside India. For according to 
Boas, the average number of children born per 
mother among the Nass River Indians is 4. 8; 
among the Kwakiut^.j; Utambtj^; Atlakyapa- 
mugnes 5.8. 38 The survival rate among the Nass 
River Indians is 55.5%; 26.6% among the Kwa- 
kiutl; 64.6% in Utamk; and 41-4% in Atlakyapa- 
mugnes. Compared with these tribes the figures 
for the Hos are 67%; for Oraons 65%; for Kuki 
61%; for the Khonds 41%; for the Tharus 52% 
and for the Saoras 56 per cent. 39 According to 
Prof. Krzywicki, the fertility of the tribes, except 
the Australians and the Negro are not correct. 

That Indian tribes are more fertile than their 
colleagues in other parts of the world is a 
fact true probably because the influence of 
contacts has not been as disastrous in India as 
elsewhere. Whereas in most parts where the White 
people have colonised or settled for exploitation 
of new lands, the tribal people have become extinct 
or are tending towards extinction, in India either 
due to isolation or through non-interference, the 
tribes have maintained their prolific fertility 
though the survival rate as found among them can 
be traced to the widespread prevalence of sexual 
diseases, syphilis being pretty commonamong them. 
Further, the lower survival rate which is traced to 
high infantile mortality has been brought about by 

81 F. Boas, Fifth Report on the Indians of Br. Columbia and 
Tenth Report on the N. W. Tribes of Canada, p. 549-551. 

*> D. N. Majumdar, Op. 9 Cit., p. g* 


changes in the economic base of the tribes, as many 
of the tribes, originally in the hunting stage have 
been absorbed in the agricultural stage and such 
adjustment has caused discomforts and disintegra- 
tion of most of their tribal beliefs in the preven- 
tion and cure. 

It may be pointed out that the fertility is 
greater among the tribal people than among 
advanced groups, e. g. in Assam in 1931, the 
average number of children per family among 
the tea garden coolie castes was 34 while that 
among the hill tribes was 4.7. At every period 
of marriage duration "hill women" have more 
children than coolie women and that at the end 
of her reproductive life a coolie man would 
normally have 6 children and a hill woman 7 to 8. 
If Hinduisation is a higher cultural stage, the 
Hinduised sections of the tribal population shiow 
a lower fertility than the tribals. Even the dy ng 
tribes have a high fertility. Westermark refersto 
some statements made by different investigators 
where primitive women are stated to be more or 
less prolific. We may tentatively conclude, though 
this would go against the assumptions of Prof. 
Carr-Saunders, that so far as fertility is concerned, 
the primitive and backward tribes have quite high 
fertility. Where the tribes have adjusted them- 
selves to the new economic base, the fertility has 
not slowed down but where there is maladaptation 
in progress not only the fertility has been lowered 
but tne incidence ot tertiiity and abortion have 
put lim't to the size of the families. 


The fertility enquiry made in 1931 reveals the 
following information regarding the fertility of 
dufferent religious groups in India. 40 

No. of Children per Family 

Communities Number Community Number 

Tribals 5.0 Hindus 4.3 

Christians 5.0 Jains 4.2 

Rajputs 4.8 Depressed Classes 4.1 

Parsis 4.6 Sikhs 4,1 

Muslims 4.4 Buddhists 3.8 

From these figures it will be noticed that the- 
people who are at the top of the social ladder 
the rich, the urban and the better educated 
sects have a low proportion of children. On 
the other hand, the Christians and the Sikhs who 
have recruited large number of members from the 
lower ranks of Hindu society have higher ranks. 
The highest of all are the Tribals, who are 
primitives with presumably the reproductive be- 
haviour of the most aboriginal groups. Both 
Hindus and Muslims fall in an intermediate^ 
group, with the Muslims having a substantially 
higher ratio than the Hindus. 

The following are the figures of Child-womaa 
ratios by religion: 41 

< Census of India 1931, Vol. I., Pt. I. 

41 Computed from Census of India* Vol. I. Pt. 2,1911^ 
pp. 44-46,51; 1921, pp. 46-43, 56; and 1931, pp. 121-23 


Child-Woman Ratios by Religion, Average for 


Children 0-4 

per 1,000 

Women aged 15-39 

















AH religions 


Children 0-4 
per 1,000 married 
Women aged 15-39 


From this table the same conclusion can be 
-drawn that the Tribals are more fertile than the rest 
of the religious groups in the country. Those 
religious groups that permit a great amount of 
widow remarriage have apparently a higher general 
fertility than those that permit a small amount. 

Similarly when two races both living a similar 
kind of life under similar conditions, one practises 
early marriage and the other does not, e. g. the 
Hindus and Muslims in India, fertility is higher 
among the latter than among the former 4 2 because 
when marriage of young people is consummated 
at an early age, a fairly large number of wives 
die of pthisis or other diseases of the respiratory 
organs or from some ovarian complication within 
10 years of the consummation of marriage. 43 

It may be mentioned here that if some of the 
primitive tribes are declining in number or are 

11 Carr-Saunders, The Population Problem, p. 104. 
4S P. K. Wattal, The Population Problem in India, 1916, 
p. 13. 


manifesting a tendency towards it, it is not due 
to their lower fecundity but the conditions of life 
which discourage families and make rearing of a 
large family almost impossible. That the vitality 
of tribes has not been absolutely impaired will 
be evident from the proportion of masculinity in 
the population in different cultural stages. The 
proportion of masculinity among tribal population 
*s much lower than among the higher castes, e. g. 
Brahmins had 902 females per 1,000 males, and 
Rajputs, 868, Bhils 981, and Santhals 998 in 1931* 

Though the figures for mortality at different 
age periods are not available, but investigations 
in specified areas have shown the phenomenal 
absence of aged people among the tribal people. 
From the census figures of 1931, we find that the 
percentages of persons aged 44 and over is higher 
among the Hindus and Muslims than among the 
tribes The Brahmins, e. g. had 19 per cent 
of their total number between the age period 44 
and above, but the Saoras 12 percent; Bhils 12.8 
per cent and the triba Kolis only 10 per cent. 
While the proportion of aged people is compara- 
tively small among the tribal people, that of 
children 0-5 years is decidedly higher than it is 
among the higher castes; among the Hindus it is 
15 per cent but among the tribal it is 19 per cent. 
The high fertility among the tribal people is 
offset by a high infantile mortality and, therefore, 
the number of children reared by tribal mothers 
at any time does not exceed those reared up by 
caste mothers. 



There is a small percentage of human family 
that never experiences a fecund life or fecund 
cycle, but is sterile. Among the aboriginals 
sterility is often regarded as a curse of the gods and 
they take every precaution to prevent it, yet it 
appears to be common among them. Much of the 
sterility among males is due to gonorrhea, which 
is thought to be a very old and widespread 
disease. According to Spencer and Gillin sterility 
is common among the Australian tribes. 

Control of Birth 

Fertility in primitive society is checked by celi- 
bacy, by restrictions of the age of marriage, by long 
periods during which mothers nurse their young 
and by various restrictions about sexual intercourse* 

As stated above there is very little celibacy 
among the aboriginal people. They see no reason 
for one's remaining unmarried and generally 
hasten to enter into the married state as soon 
after puberty as customs will permit. 

Any extended delay in marriage limits the 
possible number of children. Young women are 
more fecund than older women still in the 
reproductive period. Dunlop thinks a "year's 
delay when woman is aged from 20 to 25 averages 
0*45 of a child ; 0*37 when she is aged from 25 
to 30 ; 0-32 when she is aged from 30 to 35 ; 0*29 
when she is aged from 35 to 40 and 0*19 when 
she is aged from 40 to 45. " 44 

* Dunlop, Fertility of Marriage in Scotland, quoted by 
H. G. Duncan, Op. Cit,, p. 305. 


The nursing period is generally extended to 
2 or 3 years and often much longer. Man states 
that the Andaman Islanders never wean their 
babies so long as they are able to suckle them." 45 
Although important, the effect of lactation or 
fecundity is not definitely known. It seems to be 
agreed that among animals "an early weaning is 
conducive to a more frequent recurrence of 
oestrous and an increased number of litters/' 46 
Carr-Saunders says, "There is a considerable amount 
of evidence to the effect that the continuance of 
lactation some to extent inhibits heat in animals 
and menstruation in women/' 47 

Among certain tribes copulation is absolutely 
prohibited during the period of lactation. Among 
the north American Indians, the children are nursed 
for 3 or 4 years during which time the woman 
has no relations whatever with her husband. 
There are other periods such as before crops are 
planted, preparation for war or for a hunt, when 
copulation is prohibited. Mills tells that a law 
of Lhota Nagas requires a woman "to remain 
chaste while her husband was away on a raid.'' 48 

Abortion is universal practice among all primi- 
tive people, and various methods are known and 
practised by primitive women. Where pre-maritai 

45 Man, On the Original Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. 
"F. H. A. Marshall, Physiohgy of Reproduction, 1910. 
P 400, 

47 Carr-Saunders, Op. Gt. t p. 102. 

** Mills, The Lhota Nagas, 1922, p. 108. 



licence is allowed, and most primitive tribes do 
allow it, abortion is a necessary evil, for other- 
wise, the couple have to marry to remove the 
stigma of illegitimacy on the child born out of 
extra-marital intimacy. Some tribes use certain 
magical rites to procure abortion, others use certain 
decoctions. Most frequently abortion is procured 
by various violent physical means which are both 
harmful and dangerous. Many tribes prohibit 
parturition during the period of lactation and 
when this period is extended for 6 or 7 years 
pregnancies are relieved by abortion. About the 
Nagas of Assam, Davis says, "It is impossible to 
resist the conclusion that they are made away 
with immediately after birth, or that abortion is 
procured. The Aos have admitted to me that 

abortion is always procured in such cases The 

custom being one that is approved by Nagas, it 
is impossible to expect them to give information 
of the occurrence of such cases." 49 B. C. Allen 
speaking of the hill tribes of India living in the 
hills says, "Amongst theKukis, where marriage by 
service is common, a strange custom is in force. 
Cohabitation is freely permitted during the time 
the lover is serving in the house of his sweetheart, 
and pregnancy entails no disgrace, but the girls 
must not bring forth a living child. About the 
seventh month after conception an old woman 
skilled in such matters is called in. This worthy 
dame locates the position of the baby's head in 
the womb, and strikes a sharp blow with a flat 
stone, with the result that premature delivery 
49 Davis, Census of Assam, 1891, p. 249. 


takes place, and the child is born dead/' 50 

Abortion is also frequently practised among the 
Hos of Singhbhum and the Khonds of Ganjam. 
Abortion is not only common among the Indian 
tribes but it is also to be found in other parts 
of the world too. Bancroft says of the Nootka 
Indians, "Women rarely have more than two or 
three children, and cease bearing at about 25, 
frequently preventing the increase of their family 
by abortion. " 51 

Infanticide among the primitive tribes is 
due to multiple causes; weak children are often 
exposed to wild animals, strangled or permitted to 
perish. Sometimes the grandfather or father 
struck the infant across its mother's knee and then 
hit it on the head. Scarcity of food has led hunting 
groups to put to death children and old people 
whom they could not feed or who were considered 
burdens on them in their march for unknown 
asylums. The constant tribal warfare in NEFA, 
among the Nagas, have produced unsettled con- 
ditions and marriage by capture has made weaker 
clans kill their women, particularly young ones to 
escape the attention of stronger clans whose 
frequent incursions for women or cattle have 
been 3, constant source of terror to the weaker 
clans. But for some time past female infanticide 
has been much less than before as a result of 
persuasion and threat by administration. 


1 B. C. Allen, Census of India, 1901, Vol. IV., p. 68 
51 Bancroft, The Native Races of Pacific States of North 
America 9 p. 197. 


The Government policy regarding the abori- 
ginal population areas was initiated in 17 8 z 
following the uprisings of the Paharia and Santhal 
tribesmen. Several uprisings of tribal people took 
place beginning from Mai Paharia rising in 1772, 
the mutiny of the Hos of Singhbhum in 1831, the 
Khond uprising in 1 846, to the Santhal rebellion of 
1885. In like manner a punitive expedition was 
sent to the Jaintia Hills in 1744, to Chin Lushai 
Hills between 1850-1890, to the Naga Hills in 
1878, to the Abors in 1912. The underlying 
causes of these uprisings were the deep dissatisfac- 
tion created among the tribal people against 
exploitation by their more advanced neighbours. 
Following the measures taken principally in the 
U. S. A., after the stage of initial exploitation was 
over, to segregate the tribes into special areas of 
reservation to protect their lives and interests, the 
Government of India passed an Act in 1874 to 
specify tribal areas into "Scheduled Tracts/' These 
areas were reconstituted under Section 52 A of 
the Government of India Act of 1919 and finally 
in 1935 more stringent provisions for special 
treatment of tribal areas were incorporated by 
converting them into Total and Partially and 
Excluded Areas. In the years following and up to 
1 947 numerous Acts and regulations were promul- 


gated and various important reforms introduced, x 
we shall content ourselves with the Government 
measures taken since Independence. 

The Constitution of 1947 includes clauses 
concerning certain tribal areas in Assam and the 
tribes and territories to be governed by special 
regulations (Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled 
Areas). 2 

Part X Article 244 of the Constitution makes 
special provisions for the autonomous administra- 
tion of the tribal areas of Assam, in particular as 
regards the allotment of land, taxation, education 
and the control of moneylending and trading. 
Other States having Scheduled Areas or Sche- 
duled Tribes are to have Tribes Advisory Councils 
to advise the authorities on the advancement and 
welfare of aborigines, as may be referred to it by 
the Governor or Rajpramukh. Further if the 
President so directs, such a Council shall also be 

1 For detailed information sec G. S. Ghurye : 
Aborigines So-called and their future. Chapters, IV, V 
and VI. 

1 Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communi- 
ties or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal com- 
munities as are deemed under Article 342, to be Scheduled 
Tribes for the purpose of Constitution. Scheduled Areas 
means such areas as the President may by order declare to 
be scheduled areas. These arc : Part A : (i) the United 
Khasi-Tantia Hills Dist., ; (ii) Garo Hills Dist ; (iii) The 
Lushaf Hills, (iv) The Naga Hills district; (v) The North 
Cachar Hills, (vi) The Mikir Hills. Part B. North-East 
Frontier Tracting including : (i) Balipara Frontier Tract, 
(ii) Tirap Frontier Tract, (iii) Abor Hills Districts and 
(iv) Mishmi Hills District and the (v) Naga Tribal Area. 


set up in any State having Scheduled Tribes but 
no Scheduled Areas therein. Tribes Advisory 
Councils have so far been set up in Bihar, Bombay, 
Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Orissa, Punjab, West 
Bengal, Hyderabad, Rajasthan and Madhya 

Part XIV of the Constitution defines the tribes 
that are to enjoy special protection and provides 
that for 10 years from the commencement of the 
Constitution seats are to be reserved for them in 
Parliament and in the State Legislatures in pro- 
portion to their numbers, and that their claims 
are to be considered in making public appoint- 
ments. Hence, under Articles 330,332 and 334 
of the Constitution, seats, proportionate as far as 
possible to their population in the States, have 
been reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the Lok 
Sabha and the State Vidhan Sabhas. The follow- 
ing table gives a picture of the representation of 
the tribal people, based on the 1951 census, in 
the Central and State Legislatures : 

Seats Reserved for the Scheduled Tribes 

Total number of No. of seats reserTed 
Seats for scheduled 


Parliament 500 27 

State Legislature 3,361 189 

Legislative or executive measures have been 
taken in many States to secure for them represen- 
tation also in District Boards, Municipal Bodies 
Local Boards and Village Panchayats. 


Out of the six District Councils proposed in 
Table A, Para 20 of the Sixth Schedule of the 
Constitution, five (for the United Khasi Jaintia 
Hills District, Garo Hills District, Lushai Hills 
District, North Cachar Hills District and Mikir 
Hills District) have been set up in the tribal areas 
of Assam. Each District Council is to consist of 
not more than 24 members, of whom not less 
than three-fourths should be elected by adult 
suffrage. These Councils possess wide legislative 
powers with respect to the allotment, occupation, 
use or setting apart of land, the management of 
any forest not being a reserved forest ; the use of 
any canal or water-course for the purpose of 
agriculture ; the establishment of village or town 
committees ; the appointment or succession of 
Chief and Headmen ; and the inheritance of pro- 
perty, marriage and social customs. 

In pursuance of the Articles 335 of the Cons- 
titution, posts have been reserved and other 
measures taken to ensure a larger number of 
recruits from this class. For the Scheduled Tribes, 
the Centre has reserved 5 per cent of the posts in 
both the cases of recruitment by open competition 
and those to be filled otherwise. Reservation of 
posts as near to their population ratio as possible, 
has been fixed for the Scheduled Tribes in all Part 
A and in all but one Part B states. Saurashtra has 
decided to reserve all and M. B. 50 per cent of 
the vacancies for them until the fixed quota is 
reached. The Government of Bihar has reserved 
all vacancies in the Class IV services and the 


Government of Orissa jo percent in Classes III 
and IV till their quota is filled up. The U. P. 
Govt., has also instructed certain departments to 
recruit only Scheduled Tribes till their prescribed 
strength is reached. The Punjab Government has 
decided not to retrench employees from these 
classes as long as their number is less than the 
fixed quota. 

Article 338 further makes provision for the 
appointment of a special body to investigate the 
safeguards provided for tribal populations and 
to report to the President on their working. This 
body started functioning with effect from i8th 
November, 1950 under a Commissioner assisted 
by six Regional Commissioners with jurisdiction 
over 17 States. The duties of this Commissioner 
arc : (i) to investigate all matters relating to the 
safeguards provided under the Constitution, and 
(ii) to report on the working of these safeguards. 
The Commissioner has so far submitted four 
reports to the President, which all have been 
debated in the Parliament. He is assisted by six 
Assistant Regional Commissioners for the follow- 
ing regions : 

(i) Assam, Manipur, and Tripura. 

(H Bihar and West Bengal. 

(iii) Bombay, Rajasthan and Ajmer. 

(iv) Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya 
Pradesh and Bhopal. 


(v) Madras, Mysore, Travancore, Coorg and 

(vi) Andhra and Orissa. 

Article 275 requires that a special financial 
grant should be provided for programmes for the 
social and economic welfare of the tribal popula- 
tion. Under this Article the Central Government- 
has been giving grants for the welfare of ex- 
Criminal Tribes since 1953. The following table 
gives the details of expenditures on the welfare of 
the Tribes in 1953-54 and 1954-55 : 

Total Expenditure 
(In Rs.) 

1953-54 1954-55* 
Part A. States 

Scheduled Areas and Scheduled 

Tribes 3>53>37>579 M9>7*,7*<> 

Ex-Criminal Tribes 30,03^17 43,30,038. 

Part B. States 

Scheduled Areas and Scheduled 

Tribes 77,61,021 46,49,280* 

Ex-Criminal Tribes 3,27,876 9,59,145 

Part C. States 

Scheduled Areas and Scheduled 

Tribes 31,23,715- 

Ex-Criminal Tribes 2 9>95^ >5 2 > I 7 t 

The First Five Year Plan gave a great impetus 
to such welfare activities. It provided Rs. 39 
crores of which Rs. 20 crores were allotted in the 
plans of States and the balance was provided at the 
centre. The Second Plan allocates a total of about 
91 crores of rupees for the welfare of Backward 


classes, of which Rs. 47 crores are for scheduled 
tribes and scheduled areas; Rs. 27.5 crores for 
scheduled castes, Rs. 4 crores for the former 
criminal tribes. 

The welfare activities of the tribal people and 
their area may broadly be divided into four heads, 
vi%. 9 educational, economic, health and housing 
and other categories. 

(i) Educational. Educational Extension measures 
for increasing educational facilities for this sec- 
tion have been taken. Emphasis is laid on voca- 
tional and technical training. The concessions 
include free tuition, stipends, scholarships and 
he provision of books, hostel fees, stationery 
tnd other equipment. In certain cases, the aid 
eaxtends to clothing and mid-day meals. In 
prhedominantly Scheduled Tribes areas primary 
schools are opened and hostels run. The figures 
fori9J3-j4, for thirteen States (for which infor- 
mation is available) were thus: 

Basic schools opened, 68; Primary schools 
opened, 230. 

Residential schools, 80 Adult education centres 
opened, 169. 

Stipends and scholarships given, 22,581; Grants 
for books 30,035. 

The central Government supplements the edu- 
cational efforts of the States. Since 1944-45, the 
Centre has been awarding scholarships to post- 
matriculation students belonging to this class. The 
amounts spent on this account were Rs. 2.2 lakhs 


in 1951-52 ; Rs. 5.23 lakhs in 1952-53 ; Rs. 8.19 
lakhs in 1953-54; and Rs. 12.65 lakhs in 1954-55. 

(ii) Fjonomic or Reconstruction of Tribal Econo- 
mics. Various schemes to protect the economic 
interests of these people are in progress in all the 
States. Andhra, Bihar and Bombay, Madras, U. P. 
Orissa and Saurastra have been spending a good 
deal of money on irrigation schemes, the reclama- 
tion of wasteland and its distribution among the 
members of the Scheduled Tribes. In addition, 
facilities for the purchase of livestock, fertilisers, 
agricultural implements, better seeds, etc., are also 
being given to them. Some States have demonstra- 
tion farms for training them in methods of scienti- 
fic agriculture. 

In many states, small-scale experiments have 
been carried for evolving improved methods on 
shifting cultivation and for establishing settled 
agricultural colonies. In Assam since 1954 
9 demonstration centres have been set up, 3 in the 
Garo Hills district, 3 in Mikir Hills, 2 in Mizo 
district and i in the North Cachar Hill district. At 
these centres improved patterns of land utilization 
are demonstrated to tribal people. These involve 
afforestation of hill tops and slopes with wattle 
plantation, cultivation of coffee, cashewnuts along 
the slopes and soil conservation measures. 

In Andhra, in the East and West Godawari 
districts, colonization schemes have ^been under- 
taken. Pilot schemes have also been introduced 
in Bastar and other tribal districts in M. P. In 
Orissa over 2,000 tribal families have been settled 


in 69 agricultural colonies which have so far been- 

In Bombay, Hyderabad, Bihar and M. B the 
bulk of the tribal people are already practising, 
settled agriculture. 

Cattle-breeding and poultry farming are also 
being encouraged among these people by certain 
States. Assam, Bihar, Bombay, U.P., West Bengal, 
Hyderabad, and Pepsu are encouraging the 
development of cottage industries by way of 
loans, subsidies and through training centres. 
During the First Plan 1 1 1 cottage industry centres 
have been established in tribal areas. Peripatetic 
demonstrations-cum-training parties have been 
found useful in Bombay. 

Multipurpose co-operative societies for giving 
credit in cash and in kind to the Scheduled Tribes 
have been established in Andhra, Bihar, U. P.,. 
Madras, Orissa, W. Bengal, Hyderabad, and 
Mysore. During the First Plan, 312 multipurpose 
Co-operative Societies, were established in tribal 
areas and in Orissa, Bihar and M. P. 3 50 grain: 
*goles' set up. 

Some States such as Bombay and Andhra 
have also started various forest labour co-operative 
societies in the interests of tribal labourers. During 
this First Plan 653 forest labour co-operatives have 
been established. 

Legislation exists in almost all the States to 
extend relief to indebted persons. Measures for 
the abolition of debt bondage exist in Orissa, 
Bihar, etc. In a number of States some relief by 


way of reduction on accumulated debts has already 
been given and laws have been enacted for pro- 
tecting the rights of the tribal communities in 
lands occupied by them. Andhra, Assam, Bihar, 
M.P., Orissa M. B., West Bengal and Bhopal have 
tenancy laws to ensure security of land tenure 
to the Scheduled Tribes. 

(iii) Other Welfare Schemes. Other welfare 
schemes include the grant of housing sites, free 
or at nominal costs ; and the assistance by way of 
loans, subsidies and grants-in-aid to local bodies 
for the construction of houses; construction of 
roads in the Scheduled Tribes Areas; extension 
of medical help to the Scheduled Tribes, through 
dispensaries and mobile medical units. 

Progress under the Fkst Five Year Plan 

Under the First Plan a provision of Rs. 39 
crores was made for meeting the special needs of 
this section. Of the total estimated expenditure, 
a sum of over Rs. 11 crores was spent by the 
State Governments on the provision of educational 
facilities. Attempts are being made to impart 
education to the tribal people in their regional 
languages and primers have been prepared in 
Hyderabad, Bihar, Assam and NEFA in the tribal 
dialects. So far 8 tribal dialects have been taken 
up. By the end of the First Plan about 4,000 
schools will have been established in tribal areas of 
different kinds This includes more than one 
thousand Ashram Schools, Seva Ashrams Schools, 
etc., were opened in the States of Bombay, Bihar, 
Orissa, and M. P., and about 650 Sanskar Kendras, 


Community Centres have been establish- 
ed in the States of Bombay, M. B., Rajasthan, 
Bihar. In NEFA training institutes have been 
opened to train tribal teachers in Hindi and allied 
subjects so that they can take over the teaching 
of tribal boys and girls. 

Attention has been given to the improvement 
of means of communication in tribal and scheduled 
areas. In addition to their other road development 
programmes, a sum of about Rs. 6.5 crores has 
been spent by the State Governments on the 
construction of small approach roads, hill paths 
and bridges in the areas inhabited *by the tribal 
people. The Government of Assam was given a 
special grant of Rs. 2.6 crores for the improvement 
of communications in the tribal areas of that 
State. In all, 2,340 miles of bridle roads or hill 
paths were constructed in the States of Andhra, 
Assam, Bihar, Orissa, M. B. and V. P. 

Steps have also been taken to augment medical 
and public health facilities in scheduled areas. 
One of the principal difficulties experienced by 
tribals concerns the supply of clean drinking water. 
During the period of the first plan, more than 
10,000 wells were provided. In addition to the 
opening of 3,144 hospitals and dispensaries and 
mobile health units in the tribal areas, medical aid 
was given to these classes in the shape of free 
distribution of medicine, reservation of beds, etc. 

Special attention has also been paid to the 
problem of shifting cultivation practised by tribals 
in certain parts of the country especially in Assam, 


Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Experiments have 
been tried out in Assam, Andhra, Orissa and 
Hyderabad with a view to encouraging tribals 
practising shifting cultivation to take to settled, 
methods of agriculture. Where jhuming continues 
to be practised care has been taken to avoid indis- 
criminate cutting down of forests and adequate 
intervals between the cultivation on the same land 
is provided for. 

One of the major obstacles in the way of 
implementation of the schemes for the welfare of 
the Scheduled Tribes has been the lack of trained 
personnel. To meet this problem the Government 
of India have approved the formation of a new 
cadre (described as the Indian Frontier Adminis^ 
trative Service), which will provide trained officers 
for Grade I and Grade II administrative posts in 
NEFA, Manipur and Tripura. Now institutes have 
been set up in Bihar, Orissa, M. P. and Saurashtra 
and NEFA for the training of field workers and 
the tribal research. 

Research Institutes have been set up in Bihar, 
Orissa and M. P. for doing research on social orga- 
nisations among the tribals and means of improving 
their standards of living. These Research Institutes 
consider a series of problems such as : 
(i) shifting cultivation, 

(ii) relation of the new Panchayat system to the^ 
former system of tribal justice and organisation, 

(iii) incidence of diseases and epidemics and 
study of dietary system, 

(iv) sorcery and suicide, 


(v) how far it is practicable and desirable to 
replace native beverages, and 

(vi) collection of literature on culture heroes, 
local exploits i and moral values with a view to 
obtaining suitable material for primers and text- 
books in local languages. 
Under the Second Plan 

Under the Second Five Year Plan these problems 
are to be tackled on a considerably expanded scale, 
in which a total provision of Rs. 90 crores has 
been made for the welfare of backward classes. Of 
this amount nearly two-thirds (i.e. Rs. 47 crores) 
will be devoted to programmes for the welfare of 
the Scheduled Tribes and the development of the 
scheduled areas. Among the programmes on which 
the greatest emphasis is being placed is the settle- 
ment of tribals practising shifting cultivation in 
agricultural colonies. These colonies will be in the 
nature of multipurpose projects where, in addi- 
tion to plough animals, agricultural implements, 
seeds, manure, etc., programmes such as minor 
irrigation, demonstration farms, seed stores, ter- 
racing of fields, housing, village and hill roads, 
primary schools, supply of clean drinking water, 
construction of houses, new roads, medical and 
public health facilities, opening of new medical and 
health units to eradicate diseases like V. D. and 
leprosy, adult education, welfare and community 
centres, veterinary facilities, co-operative societies 
will be implemented. 

Out of Rs. 47 crores, a little over Rs. 27 crores 
are provided in the plans of the states and about 


Rs. 20 crores in the programme of the Central 
Government. Of the total outlay on tribal welfare 
programme, Rs. 1 1 crores are meant for communi- 
cation ; Rs. 12 crores for development of tribal 
economy ; Rs. 8 crores for Education and 
Culture ; Rs. 8 crores for public health, medical 
and water supply : Rs. 5 crores for housing and 
rehabilitation and 3 crores for other purposes. 

In the states priority has been given to the 
development of communication for the construc- 
tion of 10^200 miles of bridle and hill paths. 
States have also provided for the development 
of about 36,000 acres of land, regeneration of 
6,570 acres of forest lands, distribution of imple- 
ments and pedigree bulls, training of about 
4,000 persons in various crafts and establishment 
of 825 cottage industries centres. 
Welfare Departments 

The proviso to Article 164 (i) of the Constitu- 
tion requires that in Part A States of Bihar, M. P. 
and Orissa, Welfare Departments in the charge of 
a Minister should be set up. There is a similar 
provision under Article 238 VI for the Part B 
States of M. B. By now independent Welfare 
Departments have been set up in all the four States 
as well as in Assam. Welfare Departments exist 
in Andhra, Bombay, Madras, Punjab, U. P., West 
Bengal, Hyderabad, Mysore, PEPSU, Rajasthan, 
Travancore-Cochin, Ajmer, V. P. and Kutch. In 
Bhopal, Coorg, Delhi, M. P., Manipur, and Tripura 
the supervision of welfare activities has been 
entrusted to existing departments. 



That there is a vast socio-cultural gulf between 
the tribal groups, on the one hand, and the highly 
civilized peoples of the neighbouring plains is fact 
which can neither be denied nor ignored. Since 
the attainment of freedom, increasingly greater 
consideration is being given by all seriously think- 
ing persons to the question as to what should be 
the place of the tribal peoples in the framework 
of Indian nation and how they should be developed 
and brought to a level with the rest of the natio- 
nals socially, economically, culturally and politically. 

Three Solutions : (i) Assimilation 

Various means of dealing with the problems 

of aboriginals have been attempted but none have 

met with any degree of success. One way of 

dealing with the problem has been what may be 

called the 'missionary solution/ This term may 

be applied to any attempt to deal with aboriginals 

not by solving their own problems from inside 

and on the basis of their own life and culture, but 

by changing them or assimilating them into a new 

community. Both Christian Missionaries and Hindu 

social reformers have tried to see the primitives 

civilized, their inferior' social customs and ideas 

eliminated and their identity assimilated either in 

Christian Society or into the general framework of 

Hindu Society. 


This does not so much solve the problem 
as substitute another problem for it. Instead of 
poor aboriginals we have poor converts. If the 
aboriginal becomes a Christian, he generally finds 
himself deprived of the moral and social sanctions 
under which he has grown up, of the free and 
natural recreations to which he is accustomed, 
and in many cases he sinks into moral and econo- 
mic degradation. Besides most of them have 
lost what is distinctly tribal and have adopted a 
semi-western or Hinduised culture. Yet where 
true religion is introduced and education and 
reform conducted on sympathetic and scientific 
principles, good often results, especially if econo- 
mic improvement has preceded spiritual change. 

Besides, the policy of complete assimilation also 
does not conform to the trends of Indian history. 
In spite of the millions of years of culture-contact 
and inter-cultural borrowing, Indian society has 
not become a homogeneous whole. It is still 
composed of heterogeneous cultures like those of 
Bhils, Santhals, Gond, Oriya, Kashmiri, and Telugu. 
Hence, in this socio-historical context the adoption 
of the policy of complete assimilation can be 
regarded as wise. 

(ii) Bringing down Tribesmen to Plains 
The least satisfactory of the various solutions 
offered is the geographical solution, a policy of 
bringing the tribesman down to the plains. This 
is most destructive and cruel of all the ways of 
dealing with the problem. Economic collapse, 
moral decadence and psychic despair inevitably 


follow when Highlanders are forced away from 
their beloved mountains to the plains. The policy- 
has nothing to commend it and there is reason 
to suppose that it is only advocated in the interest 
of certain industrialists who hope that later on the 
mineral and forest rights of the hills will be 
available to them without tiresome dispute about 
the human rights of poor and inconvenient 

Even apart from the rights of the aborigines, 
the policy of stripping the hills of their inhabitants 
is a bad one, for these wild and lonely tracts may 
well become a 'Dark Continent 5 the breeding place 
of ferocious animals and the refuge of dacoits. 
Besides, there are already signs of land-starvation 
everywhere and to give good and sufficient land 
to lakhs of new settlers would only seriously dis- 
turb the existing arrangements. 

(iii) Isolation 

Finally, we have the scientific solution. Scien- 
tists and anthropologists are desirous to see that a 
considerable measure of protection is given to the 
aboriginals and some even like the establishment 
of 'National Parks' or 'Reserves' where they could 
live their own lives in unhampered liberty. They 
all insist that the change must be extremely 
gradual if it is not to be disastrous; and that 
nothing should be taken away from primitive 
people unless something else is ready to be put 
in its place. The former British Government 
tended on the whole to leave the tribals alone partly 
because the task of administration (especially in 


the wild border areas) was difficult and unreward- 
ing ; partly from a desire to quarantine the tribes 
from possible political infection and partly because 
of the feeling that these people were better and 
happier as they were. 

There is no doubt that these special solutions 
give aboriginal tribes considerable amount of 
protection against exploitation and hostility to 
sudden and large-scale encroachments on their 
land and disregard for their social and religious 
institutions. But it must be remembered that a 
policy of segregation, though essential in early 
stages, if not enough for complete isolation, has 
never led to progress and advancement, but always 
to stagnation and death. In every part of the 
world such has been the case. From the abori- 
gines of Australia to Aryan-speaking Khalars and 
Kati tribes of the Rampur Valley of Chitral, it has 
been amply demonstrated that isolation never leads 
to progress. Civili2ation everywhere has been 
built up by the contact and intercourse of peoples. 
There are innumerable instances of the borrowing 
of culture traits by the peoples of different places 
such as articles of food, use of metals, domestica- 
tion of animals, methods of agriculture, spread of 
alphabet, etc. So long as the borrowing is natural 
and in harmony with the cultural setting and 
psychological make-up of the people it has been 
entirely beneficial. The danger of contact lies 
when it is sudden and indiscriminate and tends to 
upset the tribal life by forced measures on unwill- 
ing people, as the tragic history of the aboriginal 


people of Australia, Melanesia and the U. S. A., 
has shown. 

The policy of isolation runs counter to the facts 
of the Indian situation. No iron-bar can be put 
up between the 'tribals' and 'non-tribals.' The 
tribals will be of greatest service to the country if 
they are able to bring their own peculiar treasures 
into common life, and * c not by becoming second- 
rate copies of ourselves/' What we need is their 
moral virtues, their self-reliance, their courage, 
their artistic gifts and above all their cheerfulness. 
Therefore, the policy of 'segregation' needs be 
ruled out of consideration. 

The Practical Solution 

The other solution of the tribal problem in the 
present situation would, therefore, lie in the 
integration of the tribal peoples in the national 
democratic set-up of the country. This integration 
does not presuppose assimilation and is fully 
compatible with heterogeneity of cultures of the 
country. When the Punjabi, the Madrasi, Marathi, 
Bengali, Oriya and Telugu cultures have not lost 
their identity through vicissitudes of history and 
still form integral parts of our society and nation 
today, there is no reason why the Bhils, the Gond, 
Kandh and Santhals should not be able to maintain 
their identity and culture and yet be an integral 
part of the nation. The Indian nation would not pro- 
gress if a large section such as the tribals of the 
population is isolated or lags behind. The national 
plans of the economic development of the country 
cannot also be formulated and executed if we 


ignore the natural resources available in the tribal 
areas, which fortunately are rich in this respect 
and need a careful exploitation. Hence, the only 
acceptable solution to the problem is that of 
integration of the tribes in the Indian society so 
that India would thus be a vast mosaic in which 
the numerous ethnic and cultural groups would 
constitute the component elements of diverse 
colours and patterns. It is, therefore, essential that 
if integration of the tribal people is to brought 
about, the economic and educational standards of 
the tribal groups should be brought on par with 
the rest of the people. To achieve this object the 
different tribal cultures will have to be studied 
thoroughly and scientifically too. Otherwise, 
the attempted measures for the advancement of the 
tribes will go to waste, as it will be unrelated to 
its cultural context. 

It is interesting to note what Pandit Nehru has 
said about these people and about the solution 
of their problem. He observes, "They possess a 
variety of culture and are in many ways certainly 
not backward. There is no point in trying to 
make them a second-rate copy of ourselves/' He 
emphasized the importance of encouraging the tribal 
languages, so that they would not omy prevail 
but flourish. He insisted that a measure of 
protection must be given so that "no outsider can 
take possession of tribal lands or forests or inter- 
fere with them in any way except with their consent 
and goodwill ." He hoped that the high sense of 
discipline, the power to enjoy life, the love of dance 


and song would endure among the tribesmen. 
Schemes for welfare, education, communications, 
medical relief were no doubt essential but "one 
must always remember, however, that we do not 
mean to interfere with their way of life, but want 
to help them to live it. The tribal people should 
be helped to grow according to their genius and 

The same policy has been admirably stated by 
Shri Jairam Das Daulatram. He has said, "Each 
section of our large population contributes to the 
making of the nation, in the same manner as each 
flower helps to make a garden. Every flower has 
the right to grow according to its own laws of 
growth ; has the right to enrich and develop its 
own colour and form and to spread its own frag- 
rance to make up the cumulative beauty and 
splendour of the garden. I would not like to 
change my roses into lilies nor my lilies into 
roses. Nor do I want to sacrifice my lovely 
orchids or rhododendrons of the hills/' 1 

Pandit Nehru concludes his speech (delivered 
at the opening session of the Scheduled Tribes 
and Scheduled Areas Conference held in New 
Delhi in 1952) in these words, "So far we have 
approached the tribal people in one of the two 
ways. One might be called the 'anthropological 
approach* in which we treat them as museum 
specimens to be observed and written about. To 
treat them as specimens for anthropological 
examination and analysis is to insult them. We 

*Quotcd in The Advasis, 195 5, p. 22, 


do not think of them as living human beings with 
whom it is possible to work and play. The other 
approach is one of ignoring the fact that they are 
something different requiring special treatment and 
of attempting forcibly to absorb them into normal 
pattern of social life. The way of forcible assimila- 
tion would be equally wrong." 

It would, therefore, be quite clear from the 
above abstract that the approach to the problem 
should neither be that of 'isolation' nor of 'assimila- 
tion/ but it should be that of developing the 
synthesis without destroy ing the rare and precious 
values of tribal people. "The desired integration 
of the tribal groups in the national democratic 
structure of India must be brought about without 
suddenly uprooting them from their traditional 
cultural moorings and thereby causing them 
irreparable physical and psychological damage." 

In the end certain suggestions may be offered 
to improve the lot of the tribal people. 

(i) It is recognised by all that it is essential to 
raise the economically and educationally backward 
tribal people to the general level of the other 
sections of our nation. This can be done by mak- 
ing necessary provisions for the education of these 
people. A syllabus should be drawn up for the 
primary stages incorporating activities familiar to 
tribal folk ; and later to activities associated with 
the culture of the more advanced folk of adjacent 
regions. The content of the text-books that will 
deal with such learning through doing should have 
matter drawn from the tribal culture in the earlier 


stages, and later incorporate lessons bearing on the 
culture of their neighbours. The medium of 
instruction should naturally be the mother-tongue 
of the tribes. The regional language should have 
its place as a subject of study in the upper forms. 
A few new phonemes, to represent sounds similar 
to the tribal language, should, however, be added. 
These should be drawn up bearing in mind the 
need of new phonemes for the various tribal 
languages, so that no symbol should have more 
than one sound, nor should the same sound be 
indicated by more than one symbol in different 
areas. The education imparted should be life- 

(2) The tribal people in many areas have lost 
their lands through the undesirable activities of 
their neighbours. To protect them from losing 
their land, it is essential that Land legislation 
should be enacted and land should be redistributed 
among them on the basis of economic holdings. 

(3) Co-operative activities in the field of agricul- 
ture should be encouraged through practical 
instructions in the schools. Training should also 
be given in schools to improve archaic tools and 
implements. Modern technological advance should 
also be introduced among the tribal people. 

(4) The reconstruction of tribal economies 
present a number of challenging problems and 
it is essential that solutions should be based on a 
close study of social, economic and technical 
aspects. Among the more significant of these is 
the question of 'shifting cultivation* and its 


teplacement by 'settled agriculture/ It may be 
remarked, in this connection, that if three basic 
conditions are fulfilled, there can be no unwilling- 
ness on the part of the tribals to give up shifting 
cultivation. These conditions are : 

(i) Provision of fertile land, and wherever 
possible, of irrigated land ; 

(ii) Assistance by way of bullocks, implements, 
seeds, and finance ; 

(iii) Steps to ensure that moneylenders and 
merchants are not permitted to exploit the tribal 

Where Jhuming continues to be practised care 
should be taken to avoid indiscriminate cutting 
down of forests and adequate intervals between 
the cultivation on the same land should be 

provided for. 

(5) A considerable portion of the tribal people 
live in forest areas so that the manner in which 
forest resources are exploited has a great deal of 
bearing on their welfare. Care has, therefore, to be 
taken to ensure that regulations relating to the 
collection of forest produce, grazing, meeting 
everyday requirements of firewood, etc., do not 
cause hardship. In many ways penetration of forest 
contractors into tribal economy has been harmful. 
Hence, labour co-operatives should be started. 
Forest contracts should be given to co-operative 
societies and they should also be assisted in the 
collection and processing of minor forest produce. 
Tribal co-operatives, as far as possible, should be 


multipurpose in character, providing for credit, 
supply of consumer goods, and marketing at the 
same time. This will relieve the tribal people from 
the clutches of the rapacious moneylenders, mer- 
chants or contractors, who sometimes acquire a 
stranglehold over tribesmen and take away a large 
proportion of the current produce. 

(6) Although tribesmen live close to Nature, 
invariably their health and physique are poor. 
They suffer from various diseases like malaria, yaws, 
tuberculosis, small-pox, and venereal diseases and 
skin and eye diseases. In the main, these are due 
to lack of clean drinking water, nutritive food 
and of protection against extremes of climate. 
Hence, dispensaries and mobile health units should 
be organised on a much larger scale than at present. 
Drinking water wells should be constructed on a 
much wider scale. Indigenous systems of medicines 
must be explored and simple natural remedies used 
whenever possible. The doctors must reach these 
tribesmen in a spirit of love, without any desire 
to impose themselves upon them. 

(7) The tribesmen have considerably inherited 
skill and it is essential that their arts and crafts 
should receive encouragement and support and 
they should be given facilities for vocational and 
technical training. There are large number of 
subsidiary industries such as bee-keeping, basket 
making, sericulture, lac and gum collecting, 
catechu making, spinning and weaving, fruit 
preservation and the manufacture of palm-gur 
which can be profitably developed. 


(8) The tribal areas are sparsely populated and 
covered with forests ; they have heavy rainfall ; 
the communications are difficult and limited and 
few amenities have reached the people. The major 
problem in these areas is the provision of means 
of communication and transport. Efforts should, 
therefore, be made to construct new paths and 
roads, with bridges over the rivers and rivulets 
with the co-operation of the people. 

(9) Tribal welfare programmes have to be based 
on respect and understanding of their culture and 
traditions and an appreciation of the social, 
psychological and economic problems with which 
they are faced. The welfare and development 
programmes in tribal areas inevitably involve a 
measure of disturbance in relation to traditional 
beliefs and practices. In their implementation, 
therefore, the confidence of the people and the 
understanding and goodwill of the elders of the 
tribal communities are of the highest impor- 
tance. The anthropologist, the administrator, the 
specialist and the social worker have to work as 
a team, approaching the problems of the tribal 
people with sympathy, understanding and know- 
ledge of the social psychology and the needs of 
the tribal communities. 

Tribal people have to be assisted through their 
own institutions. Details of development pro- 
grammes should be formulated in consultation with 
members of Advisory councils, leaders of tribal 
opinion and institutions engaged in the study of 
tribal problems. The tribal people should feel 


that these programmes are, in a real sense, a 
response to their own urge for better standards of 
living and the development of their culture. 

In the words of Pandit Nehru, "The last is 
no easy one for it involves several ideals that have 
rarely been found compatible. The first is to 
preserve, strengthen and develop all that is best in 
tribal society, culture, art and language. The 
second is to protect the tribal economic rights. 
The third is to unite and integrate the tribes in a 
true heart-unity with India as a whole, so that they 
may play a full part in their life. And the last is 
to develop welfare and educational facilities so 
that every tribesman may have an equal opportunity 
with the rest of the fellow citizens who work in 
the field, factories and workshops, in the open 
country and the plains/' 


To conclude it may be said that the aboriginals 
are the real "Swadeshi" products or the 'oldest 
inhabitants' of India, in whose presence every 
one is a foreigner. These are the ancient people 
with moral claims and rights thousands of years 
old. They were here first; they should come first 
in our regard too. These millions need freedom, 
prosperity, peace, education, medicines, and new 
systems of living. Hence, we must fight for 
three freedoms, at least freedom from Fear, free- 
dom from Want, and freedom from Interference. 
We may see that the aboriginals get a square 
deal economically. We may see that they are 
freed from cheats and imposters, from the aggres- 


sive landlords and the moneylenders, from 
corrupt and rapacious officials. We may see that 
they get medical aid from the doctors in the same 
way just as we do. If there must be schools we 
may see that these teach useful arts and crafts* 
suited to their environment like carpentry and 
agriculture, and not a useless literacy. We may 
work to raise the prestige and the honour of the 
aboriginals. We may guard them against adven- 
turers who would rob them of their songs, their 
dances, their festivals and their laughter. It can- 
not be denied that the economy of tribal India 
is fast changing. The only safeguard required is 
to assure the tribal people of enough power to 
prevent them from being converted into helpless 
elements in a larger economic organisation which 
they cannot wholly comprehend. The only way 
to achieve it is through education and organisation,, 
and the preparation to share with equality the 
the burdens and the glories of the new Indian 
economy which we all are trying to build up. 


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Abor, 74 

Aboriginals, 19,25 
Abortion, 113,115 
Acculturation, 46 
Adivasis, 20,25,142 
Adoption, 45 
Agarias, 61 
Agriculture, 54,55,58,139 

Axe, 55 

Settled, 58,139 

Predatury, 55 
Ainus, 69 
Alpanoids, 16 
Ancient Indians. 6 
Andamane&e, 27 
Angami Nagas, 9,27 
Animists, 19 
Armenoids, 16 
Aryans, 3 

Indo, 2,21 
Aryo-Dravidians, 3 
Assimilation, 46,130 
Asur, 28 

Backward Hindus, 19 
Baigas, 19,73 
Bagatas, 60 
Bewars, 57 
Birhors, 28 
Bhils, 11,27,131 
Bhotiyas, 61 
Bodga, 57 


Census, 19,26,27 
Classification of Tribes, 33 

Occupational, 4J 

Territorial, 35 

Linguistic, 39 

Culture-Contact, 43 
Communities, 22,26 

Tribal, 22 
Semi-Tribal, 22 
Accultured Tribal, 22 
Constitution, 31,117,118 
Control of Birth. 112 


Dabi, 57 

Daya, 57 

Deppa, 57 

Dietaries, 68 
Vegetarian, 72 
Non-vegetarian, 72 

Dinaric, 16 

Divorce, 102 

Dravidian, 2.5,21 

Emigration, 32 


Fecundity, 104,105 
Fertility, 103,106,108,109 

Ghasis, 61,71 
Gondid, 6 
Gonds, 6,21 
Maria, 60 


Handicrafts, 77 
Health, 77 
Hunting, 59 

Nomadic, 59 
Housing, 82 
Hos, 5 

Indid, 7 
Infanticide, 115 
Irulas, 61 
Isolation, 132 



Jhum, 57,139 


Kaddars, 4,9 
Kadodi, 59 
Kanets, 3,5 
Kannikars. 4,74 
Katkari, 28 
Kharwars, 58 
Khond, 28 
KhiL 57 
Kols, 11,62 
Kolid, 7 
Kolams, 58 
Korwas, 28,73 
Kota, 27 
Kumari, 57 

Lactation, 113 
Lepchas, 3,13 
Literacy, 79 


Malid, 7 
Malayam, 11 
Marriage, 89,110 

Child, 89 

Widow, 89 

Forms of, 98,100 

Dissolution of, 102 
Marital, 91 

-Pre, 91,115 

Extra, 91 
Mediterranean, 8,14 

Palac, 14 
Menarche, 87 
Mining, 61 
Mongolians, 3 
Mongoloids, 7,12 

Palae, 7,12 

Tibeto, 13 
Mongolo-Dravidians, 3 
Monogamy, 10 
Muslims, 30,86 


Nagas, 27 

Angami, 27 
Nayadis, 27 
Negritos, 5,7,8,9,10 
Nomadic, 54 

Semi, 54 
Nordics, 17 


Oraons, 5 
Oryas, 131 

Penda, 57 
Plan, first, 127 

Second, 128 
Plantation, 62 

Labour, 62 
Podu, 58 

Polygamy, 100,101 
Polygyny, 101 
Polyandry, 100,101 
Population, 1,25 
Proto-Australoids, 7, 11,20 
Pulayas, 4 


Races, 1 

Classification of, 2 
Eickstcdt's classification of, 
Guiffriad's ,, 


Hadon's ,, 

-Riseley's ,, 

Raji, 74 


Santhals, 5,11,27,131 
Scytho-Dravidians, 4 
Scheduled Areas, 117,136 
Semi-Nagas, 13 
Semitic, 16 
Serf, Agricultural, 63 

Types of, 65 
Sex, 87 

Distribution, 87 




Tharu, 28,59 
Todas, 28 69 
Tribes, 19 

Scheduled, 20,117,118 

Criminal, 67 

Ex-Criminal, 29,121 
Tribal Economic, 123 
Tribal People, 19 

Assimilation of, 130 

Classification of, 33 

Distribution of, 23 

Isolation of, 132 

Process of Transformation of, 45 

-Strength of, 24 
Religion of, 26 


Untouchables, 25 
Uralis, 4,9,74 


Veddahs, 5 

Welfare, 125,141 

Yerrrvas, 11